WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had this to say following the passage of H.R. 72, the GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017, which enhances the Government Accountability Office’s ability to audit federal entitlement spending for fraud. The bill gives the GAO, a watchdog agency, access to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), a government database that tracks employment. The Department of Health and Human Services had previously denied the GAO access to the data.
“This legislation empowers the top federal watchdog to do what it was created to do: hold the federal government accountable,” said Johnson. “This bill provides the GAO with the information it needs to audit federal entitlement programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on those that do not qualify, either through fraud or error.”
The legislation was introduced by Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and co-sponsored by Chairman Johnson in the last Congress as S. 2849 and was reported out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on a voice vote.
The bill clarifies that a database called the National Directory for New Hires (NDNH), maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, can now be accessed by the GAO. The database contains wage and employment information. It was created to help states enforce child-support obligations and collects information from states and federal agencies on new hires, quarterly wages and unemployment claims. The bill also reaffirms the ability of the GAO to bring lawsuits against federal agencies to obtain records, and expands agencies’ congressional reporting requirements in response to GAO reports.