Ways To Reduce Government Spending

Gao ID: 114339 January 29, 1981

GAO has made both programmatic and administrative recommendations for budget savings over the past several years. There is fraud, abuse, and waste in Government. There are many things the Government could do to improve its internal controls over agency programs, collect debts owed to the Government, and take action on previous audit findings that could result in large savings to the Government. GAO has identified: (1) a case involving an alleged embezzlement of almost $2 million in medical funds from a health care program; (2) excesses in the food stamp program; (3) internal control weaknesses in a computer system which resulted in over $25 million erroneous benefit payments; and (4) illegal mining of coal on Federal lands. GAO has issued numerous reports recommending changes in income security programs. Some of the recommendations include: (1) termination of Social Security benefits for postsecondary students; (2) elimination of the minimum Social Security benefit provision for new beneficiaries; (3) a requirement of States to deposit Social Security taxes semimonthly or biweekly; and (4) calculating Social Security benefits to the nearest penny. Agencies often have weak internal control systems that make it easier for fraud, waste, and abuse to occur. GAO has supported legislation which would require greater accountability by heads of agencies for the effectiveness of their organizations' internal controls. Agencies have not aggressively tried to collect amounts owed the Government after they have been identified. Present collection methods are expensive, slow, and relatively ineffective when compared to commercial practices. The collection of debts has been hampered by: (1) a lack of prompt and aggressive collection; (2) low or no interest being imposed on delinquent accounts; and (3) inaccuracies in accounting for and reporting accounts receivable, including inadequate allowances for bad debts. Agencies also fail to act on their own auditors' findings. About 80 percent of such cases involve potential recoveries from grantees and contractors, including what they either spent for purposes not authorized by Federal laws and regulations or could not support as charged to the Government.

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