Members Respond to 2015 GAO High Risk Report

WASHINGTON – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an update on Wednesday to the High Risk List, an inventory of government operations vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.  GAO updates the High Risk List every two years at the beginning of a new Congress to focus national attention on these critical areas.  Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), along with Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro held a joint press conference Wednesday to unveil the report. The members made the following remarks:

“The GAO is an important agency to the work Congress does,” said Chairman Ron Johnson. “Its high-risk list is all about identifying agencies vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. It is troubling that VA Health Care has been added to the list this year, not only because of the tragic deaths of veterans at Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin but because GAO has been making recommendations for the improvement of VA medical care for years. About 80% of those recommendations have not been implemented. We need a better process to get agencies to implement the recommendations GAO makes. If they do, we will have a government that is far more efficient and effective — a goal we all share.” 

Ranking Member Tom Carper remarked, “The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High Risk List is about solving problems, saving taxpayer dollars, and getting better results from our government agencies and programs. I am encouraged that there’s been progress on a number of areas that we’ve worked on in this Committee, including the management of the Department of Homeland Security. But while this progress is promising, serious challenges lie ahead. We need to figure out how to deliver better health care results to our veterans, improve our federal information technology management, do more to fight waste and fraud in programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and  work harder to correct the chronic financial management problems at the Department of Defense. GAO also calls on Congress to act on legislation to help the U.S. Postal Service restructure, make sure our nation’s transportation infrastructure is properly funded, and address the risks of climate change. The good news is that we can solve all of the problems on the High Risk List.  But it is a shared responsibility. Congress must leverage the good work of GAO and the Inspectors General across the government, and work closely with the Office of Management and Budget and the agencies responsible for these programs to achieve real results. I have always considered the High Risk List to be the ‘to-do’ list for Congress, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle this year’s list throughout the 114th Congress.”

Chairman Jason Chaffetz said, “While some federal programs have implemented the necessary reforms to reduce their high risk status, it is concerning that six programs have remained on the list for twenty-five years. It is important that we carefully review programs with perpetual ‘high risk’ status to see why the GAO’s recommendations are not being implemented and what steps need to be taken to mitigate risk.”

“If there is one thing we should take away from GAO’s new report today, it is that we need to focus much greater effort on combating cyber-attacks and preventing data breaches, which are a clear and present danger to our national and economic security,” said Ranking Member Elijah Cummings. “Congress and the Executive Branch must do all we can to mitigate risks at federal agencies and ensure that American consumers are protected when they provide their personal information to private companies.”

 You can watch the full press conference here.