GAO names 35 government programs at high risk of "fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement"

  • 11 March 2019
  • NormanL

The Government Accountability Oiffce has released its list of government programs it says are high risk "due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need transformation."

According to the GAO, there have been some improvements since its 2017 report. But old problems -- and some new ones -- remain:

There are two new areas on the High-Risk List since 2017. Added in 2018 outside of GAO's biennial high-risk update cycle, the Government-Wide Personnel Security Clearance Process faces significant challenges related to processing clearances in a timely fashion, measuring investigation quality, and ensuring information technology security. The second area, added in 2019, is Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Acquisition Management. VA has one of the most significant acquisition functions in the federal government, both in obligations and number of contract actions. GAO identified seven contracting challenges for VA, such as outdated acquisition regulations and policies, lack of an effective medical supplies procurement strategy, and inadequate acquisition training.

The GAO noted a few specific programs it says need immediate congressional attention:

While progress is needed across all high-risk areas, GAO has identified nine that need especially focused executive and congressional attention, including Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation, Resolving the Federal Role in Housing Finance, addressing Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programs, Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care, and ensuring an effective 2020 Decennial Census. Beyond these specific areas, focused attention is needed to address mission-critical skills gaps in 16 high-risk areas, confront three high-risk areas concerning health care and tax law enforcement that include billions of dollars in improper payments each year, and focus on a yawning tax gap.

Internet security is likely to be a nearly permanent concern for government agencies at all levels. The arms race between hackers - both individuals and those lllied with foreign powers -- and systems managers will only get sharper as even more data is shifted online.

As for the perennial problems of government overpayments -- and old-fashioned graft -- one way to curb that is reducing the size of government. 

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