Democrats: Ignored IG advice could have saved $25 billion

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 7, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Some congressional Democrats claim that the Bush administration could have saved more than $25 billion since 2001 if it had implemented nearly 14,000 cost-saving measures that its own watchdogs recommended.

The recommendations came from inspectors general in various federal agencies. By law, federal agencies are supposed to act on inspector general reports within a year.

The findings are in a report prepared by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It also said that in addition to saving taxpayers' money, many of the recommendations would have improved public health and safety, national and homeland security and the environment.

The committee asked the inspectors general to compile all the recommendations they'd made between Jan. 1, 2001, and the end of last year. The total was nearly 100,000, with 14 percent of them unimplemented.

"If someone told me that I was losing change from a hole in my pocket and instead of mending it I kept losing money, shame on me," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. "But that's what has happened . . . to the tune of $25 billion, as thousands of inspectors general recommendations were ignored by our government."

She and Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edolphus Towns of New York had asked the committee to look at the unimplemented recommendations.

Waxman was the chairman of the committee at the time. Towns is the new chairman. McCaskill serves on a similar panel in the Senate, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The House committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, chided the Democrats for conducting the study without any Republican input.

In a statement, Issa also said that the report ignored the Democrats' "own backyard" because it didn't look at inspectors general recommendations made during the Clinton administration.

Issa's spokesman, Frederick Hill, said there could be good reasons that some recommendations had been delayed, but "anytime the IG says there's a problem, it's important that Congress should take it seriously."

The report indicated that putting in place the open IG recommendations for just the Social Security Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services would save more than $16 billion.

Another $3 billion could be saved from the unimplemented recommendations by the inspectors generals of the Transportation and Defense departments.

A specific recommendation in 2007 was for the Defense Department to identify overpayments to certain military contractors, which could save $837 million over five years, according to the report.

The Amtrak inspector general said in 2005 that the agency could save $100 million annually by using a more modern system of maintenance.

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