Every year the Government Accountability Office publishes a “hall of shame” list, calling out programs or agencies that are the chief offenders when it comes to waste, fraud, and abuse.
The list is sent to Congress and the progress of each offenders corrective action is tracked. If the agency corrects the issues they are removed from the list. However, there aren’t many consequences for agencies that don’t improve … except for cementing a spot on the High Risk List.
Some, like the Defense Department, have been on the list for years for such problem areas as weapons acquisitions and financial management (DOD hasn’t been successfully audited in decades). Medicare, Medicaid, and the U.S. Postal Service also are frequently on the list. This year’s list includes 32 programs, an increase from last year’s 30.
Here are the top five programs from this year’s list:
Information Technology and Acquisitions
The U.S. government spends over $80 billion a year for information technology but its track record leaves a lot to be desired.
The most notable failure is HealthCare.gov, the exchanges for Obamacare. As everyone knows the original rollout was an abysmal failure and the program’s cost has ballooned to $2 billion.
HHS also abandoned its electronic health record system. It simply didn’t work. The GAO blamed these and other failures on management and planning. The GAO said in its report:
We have previously testified that the federal government has spent billions of dollars on failed IT investments. These and other failed IT projects often suffered from a lack of disciplined and effective management, such as project planning, requirements definition, and program oversight and governance.
Veterans Affairs health care
The Department of Veterans Affairs spent much of the year in the headlines. Secretary Eric Shinseki eventually resigned or was fired. He was replaced by Robert McDonald who is now under fire for claiming that he was in the Special Forces when he was actually an officer in the 82nd Airborne.
After a year of scandal at the VA, where officials were accused of keeping secret wait lists and hiding poor treatment of veterans, it’s no surprise the $55.5 billion health care program serving more than 8.9 million veterans is considered “high risk.” GAO said it issued eight reports on the VA health system last year detailing delays, lax oversight, and mismanagement.
IRS Tax Law Enforcement
The IRS has been a regular on the list since 1990. The tax gap (the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid) is an astounding $385 billion. This year the GAO looked at the agency’s efforts to combat tax fraud. Last year, the IRS paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent tax refunds — though it prevented another $24.2 billion from being lost to identify fraud. Budget cuts, it says, could hamper its efforts to combat this.
Security of federal information systems and cyber infrastructure
Repeated attacks on public and private information systems has become an increasing threat to national security. The government is in a constant race to keep up with hackers and protect our cyber assets.
The growing number of high-profile breaches in the private sector, such as Sony’s, as well as more security incidents involving personal information at federal agencies has further raised the risk.
Pentagon weapon systems acquisition
Another long-time regular on the list has been a resident since 1990. The report said that the DOD has continued to fall short on cost-effectiveness, schedule management, and performance expectations.
The pricey F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter, for example, estimated to cost more than $1.5 trillion, has already gone hundreds of billions over budget, is far behind schedule and has fallen short of expectations. It’s still never flown in combat.