Lieberman Notes Longstanding Problems with Waste, Abuse

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Thursday the General Accounting Office’s biennial list of high risk government programs demonstrated that longstanding and deeply-imbedded problems of waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse will require years of work to overcome. The 2003 list contains more at-risk programs than it has since the reports began in 1990. Lieberman also reiterated his intention to closely oversee the Department of Homeland Security, which is newly added to the high-risk list.

“It’s clear that establishing the new Department of Homeland Security will pose steep challenges,” Lieberman said. “As we anticipated during consideration of the Homeland Security Act, the creation of this large and complex organization will require extensive oversight by Congress. I intend to monitor the creation and operation of this department very closely to ensure the American people are protected to the best of government’s ability against terrorist attacks.”

The GAO’s 2003 report of most vulnerable programs, made public Thursday, shows improvement in 23 high risk areas that were identified in 2001. Two of these areas – the Supplemental Security Income program and the asset forfeiture programs administered by the Justice and Treasury departments – have been removed from the list this year. Four others, including the Department of Homeland Security – were added to the list, raising the total number of at-risk programs to 25.

“Much work remains to be done to improve the effectiveness of the federal government, Lieberman said. “These problems are generally longstanding and deep-rooted, and therefore, require significant agency commitment, planning and time to resolve.

“I will work with my colleagues in Congress both to help ensure that agencies have the tools and resources they need and to keep the pressure on the Administration for continued improvement. Considerable progress has been made in addressing long-standing deficiencies in financial management at agencies including the IRS, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Defense, Lieberman noted.

And GAO is closely monitoring government-wide information security, a subject Lieberman has been particularly interested in. In reports to the Committee, GAO has targeted agency vulnerabilities and made scores of helpful recommendations. Based on these reports, the Committee reported out a computer security bill which was enacted by Congress in 2000 and served as a mechanism for agencies to assess their information security programs. A modified version of this measure was made permanent by Lieberman’s E-Government bill, enacted last year. The GAO also maintained “Strategic Human Capital Management” – workforce planning for the future – on the list.

“Given the rapidly changing nature of our society, spurred by the information revolution, the federal government needs the right people in place with the right skills to do the job,” Lieberman said. “Like the private sector, we need “knowledge workers” in order to be as effective as possible in the global economy. And to attract and retain these workers, we need to raise the value of public service and make the government a more attractive employer. I am pleased that some government-wide measures to strengthen management of human capital, developed by the committee, were enacted last year as part of the Homeland Security Act last year.”