Recently, the Inspector General (IG) community released a report identifying the top challenges facing agencies in the federal government. The community is made up of 73 independent IGs that help root out waste, fraud and abuse, and in 2016, they collectively identified over $45 billion in potential savings.
In 2008, Congress established the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) hoping to “address integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues that transcend individual government agencies.” CIGIE’s report on government-wide management and performance challenges identified seven most frequently cited problems with federal agencies. They are:
- Information Technology Security and Management
- Performance Management and Accountability
- Human Capital Management
- Financial Management
- Procurement Management
- Facilities Maintenance
- Grant Management
The top concern for the IGs was information technology (IT). Over the past few years, many reports have been released on the federal government’s aging IT infrastructure and its cost to taxpayers. According to a report released by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK), the federal government’s IT infrastructure is over 50 years old and costs taxpayers $80 billion to maintain every year. Senator Lankford’s Federal Fumbles reported that “DOD still utilizes 8-inch floppy disks for a computer system that controls our nation’s nuclear weapons. Treasury utilizes a computer code from the early 1960s to catalogue taxpayers, and the VA utilizes programing code written in the 1950s to track veteran claims for benefits and employee time cards and payroll.”
Other highlights include federal agencies’ mismanagement of the procurement process, the process used to purchase goods and services for the federal government. According to CIGIE, the federal government awarded over $500 billion in contracts in fiscal year 2017, but “the fact that many federal agencies face challenges in procurement management indicates that billions of taxpayer dollars may be at increased risk for fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.” The most infamous ongoing examples are the cost overruns at DOD, including the massive cost overruns of the F-35 program. CIGIE also found that agencies face challenges assessing and documenting contractor performance, making it likely that agencies are doing business with contractors with a history of poor performance.
Finally, CIGIE hints that the federal government may be getting a little too big for its britches when it comes to grant management. Agencies are having trouble managing all facets of the grant process including the awarding and monitoring processes, as well as assessing the success of grants. The federal government spends over $700 billion through federal grants every year. However, “the increasing number and size of grants has created complexity for grantees and made it difficult for federal agencies to assess program performance and conduct oversight.”
Over the past couple weeks we have heard from the Government Accountability Office, and now the Inspectors General, about ways federal agencies and Congress can improve efficiency and save taxpayers money in the federal government. It is no secret that waste, fraud and abuse is prevalent throughout the federal government and our watchdogs have identified billions in potential savings. Congress and the Executive Branch need to get to work.