WASHINGTON – The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday looked for ways Congress can improve its own oversight activities by helping the Government Accountability Office (GAO) meet growing demands for examinations into how the government can increase effectiveness and save Americans money.
GAO has been a remarkably efficient and effective office, operating under a tight budget but expanded responsibilities. Since 2003, GAO’s budget has declined by 3 percent after inflation, yet it has dramatically increased its workload. Lieberman noted GAO’s estimate that the American taxpayer saves $105 for every $1 spent by the Office – making for a “remarkably high return on investments.”
“By the very nature of this Committee’s government oversight responsibilities, we depend heavily on GAO. In the last 12 months alone, we’ve received over 200 reports from the Office,” Lieberman said. “The subject matter of these reports ranges over an astonishingly wide spectrum – from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita disaster relief, to improving government-wide financial management, to strengthening the privacy of health information, to the management of homeland security first responder grants, to security and rebuilding Iraq. Our work has benefited greatly from GAO’s output, and so have the American people.”
“The ‘watchdog of Congress’ has served us well as auditor, overseer, investigator, and evaluator. Not only does the Office perform yeoman service in research, analysis, and evaluation, but it presents its work in compact, coherent, and accessible form – and in conscientiously non-partisan tone. GAO reports are authoritative and invaluable tools for lawmakers and for our staff,” said Senator Collins. “GAO has computed the fiscal-year 2006 financial benefits of its work at $51 billion, representing an amazing return of $105 for every dollar. That kind of return – not to mention the clean audited financials – should be the envy of both private-sector and government organizations.”
The Committee welcomed testimony from GAO Comptroller General David M. Walker, who explained that the Office has requested an 8.5 percent budget increase for FY08 – for a total of $530 million. Walker also identified problems with the government’s procurement process, which he said costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
“Along with supporting Congressional oversight, GAO’s efforts provide insight and foresight on approaches to problems that do or do not work, and what best-practices should be applied,” Lieberman said. “GAO’s insight today reinforces the need for our Committee to conduct tough oversight on the federal contracting process, which is fraught with organizational and oversight problems across the federal government.”