Selected Federal Accounts

Past Outlays and GAO Recommendations Gao ID: PAD-79-73 September 19, 1979

GAO was requested to examine the 10 largest spending programs in each of the 12 cabinet-level departments, track expenditure growth in these programs for several years, and estimate the dollar value of waste and inefficient expenditures in each of these 120 programs. GAO was also requested to suggest legislative remedies and other ways to reduce and eliminate waste. Recent growth in the 10 largest Federal appropriation accounts in each of the cabinet-level departments were analyzed rather than program accounts, because program data was not readily available. The accounts were selected on the basis of actual fiscal year 1978 net outlays.

It was found that the accounts ranged from $10 million to $81.2 billion; that one-fifth of the 120 accounts had grown more than 50 percent from fiscal year 1975 to fiscal year 1978, based on constant fiscal year 1975 dollars; only three accounts had decreases of at least 50 percent. It is doubtful that anyone will ever be able to measure total waste in major Federal Programs with precision, because waste in Government often has different meanings. Waste does result from the continuation of programs after they have outlived their usefulness. Although waste and inefficiency cannot be quantified, GAO has identified a number of examples of them in selected accounts in its reports. During fiscal years 1977 and 1978, a total of $8.2 billion in measurable savings was attributable to the GAO work throughout the Government. Agencies do not always act on the recommendations of GAO, and also fail to implement full recommendations from their own interal auditors. A recent GAO report described the ways for Federal agencies to achieve greater collections and savings bymore effectively resolving internal agency auditors' findings. The report revealed that departments and agencies have a backlog of over $4.3 billion in unresolved audit findings, and that failure to take appropriate action costs the Government hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It is the opinion of GAO that there is further potential for substantial savings throughout the Federal Government by improving the design and management of Federal programs and activities.

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