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US Has Saved $429 Billion by Cutting Waste — and There’s Plenty More to Go: GAO

Michael Rainey

The government could save billions of dollars by operating more efficiently in a wide range of areas, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Wasting taxpayer funds is always an issue, but it may be an even more pressing concern now that the U.S. has embarked on a massive, multi-trillion-dollar effort to keep the economy afloat during the coronavirus crisis. “The federal government has made an unprecedented financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report says. “At the same time, opportunities exist for achieving billions of dollars in financial savings and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a wide range of federal programs in other areas.”

The tenth in an annual series, the 148-page report identifies hundreds of issues that, if addressed, could produce substantial savings. In addition to an ongoing list of recommended improvements, some of which have spurred lawmakers to act, the GAO report includes 168 new “actions” Congress could take, most of which involve reducing “fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in government missions and functions.” The GAO says the government has saved about $429 billion so far as a result of its efforts to identify ways Congress can reduce costs and increase revenues.

Some highlights from the latest report:

* Navy shipbuilding: “The Department of the Navy could achieve billions of dollars in cost savings by improving its acquisition practices and ensuring that ships can be efficiently sustained,” the report says.

* Military depots: “The Department of Defense could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by accurately measuring and reducing excess funded, unfinished work at military depots.”

* Student loans: “The Department of Education should analyze data and use it to verify borrowers’ income and family size information on Income-Driven Repayment plans to safeguard the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal investment in student loans and potentially save more than $2 billion.”

* Medicaid providers: “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could ensure that states implement Medicaid provider screening and enrollment requirements, which could potentially save tens of millions of dollars annually.”

* Medicare payments: “Medicare could have cost savings if Congress were to equalize the rates Medicare pays for certain health care services, which often vary depending on where the service is performed.” Potential savings are in the billions, according to the report.

* IRA accounts: “The Internal Revenue Service should establish a formal collaborative mechanism with the Department of Labor to better manage fragmented efforts and enhance compliance for certain individual retirement accounts that engaged in prohibited transactions, and thereby potentially increase revenues by millions of dollars.”

* IRS fraud detection: “The Internal Revenue Service could improve the agency’s efforts to prevent refund fraud associated with identity theft,” with savings potentially in the billions.

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