Congressional Oversight: Opportunities to Address Risks, Reduce Costs, and Improve Performance: T-AIMD-00-96

Walker, David M.
February 2000
GAO Reports;2/17/2000, p1
Government Document
No matter how large the projected budget surpluses may turn out to be, the government still has a responsibility to make the most prudent use of taxpayer dollars. The question of what to do with the surplus has largely focused on such options as new spending, tax cuts, and retiring the debt. But the surplus also affords policymakers a crucial opportunity to restore the public's trust and confidence in government by addressing known performance problems in federal agencies and programs. Resolving these problems could save taxpayers billions of dollars and dramatically improve the delivery of services to the American people. For example, nine federal agencies estimate that they made improper payments of more than $19 billion in fiscal year 1998 alone. And GAO continues to include 26 federal agencies and programs on its list of government areas at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. At the same time, many government programs were designed long ago. It seems appropriate at the start of a new century to question the relevance or "fit" of any government program in today's world. Weeding out wasteful and inefficient programs that have outlived their usefulness can provide the budgetary flexibility needed to address looming cost pressures and emerging needs, such as the impact of baby boomer retirements on the growth of Social Security and health care outlays. Also, those activities that remain relevant may need to be updated and modernized--through redesigned formulas, enhanced cost sharing by beneficiaries, and consolidation of facilities--to improve their targeting and efficiency. The Comptroller General's testimony draws on the full breath of GAO work to highlight many examples of significant performance problems in federal agencies and programs. These examples are organized around the following four broad themes: (1) attacking waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in order to reduce the risks and costs associated with delivering major federal programs; (2) improving the economy and the efficiency of federal operations by taking advantage of opportunities to restructure and streamline; (3) reassessing what the federal government does and considering the termination or revision of outdated programs and services; and (4) redefining the beneficiaries of federal programs, including who is eligible for, pays for, and benefits from a particular program.


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