GAO duplication report a 'scorecard' of agency progress

Monday - 3/12/2012, 8:57pm EDT

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro

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In its annual report of duplicative government programs, the Government Accountability Office found 51 areas in which the federal government could reduce duplication.

The watchdog agency's report on overlapping federal programs touched on "virtually all" major federal departments and agencies, according to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro's introduction to the report.

U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro

But that actually indicates progress. Last year's report turned up 81 such areas.

In an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose, Dodaro said it was important for GAO to not only report on new areas of overlap, but to provide an update to last year's list.

GAO found that four of the 81 areas had been "completely addressed," 60 had been partially addressed and 17 had not been addressed.

"We thought it was important to provide a scorecard so that Congress and the administration could have a clear indication of the progress that was being made," Dodaro said.

Not all duplication wasteful

Dodaro was clear not all duplication is necessarily a bad thing.

"We acknowledge in our report that duplication may be warranted and, in fact, desirable in some cases," Dodaro said, citing the benefits of redundancies in security matters, for instance. "What we try to do is point out areas where we think that the potential duplication is unnecessary and can be draining efficiencies or making the programs less effective. So we try to distinguish that from the beginning. But ultimately, the case that we make is for the Congress and the administration to make judgments on."

As it turns out, it's often difficult for GAO to quantify the amount of duplication actually occurring in part because many federal programs have never really undergone proper evaluations, Dodaro added. "So we don't really know how effective the programs are."

Agencies under new GPRA requirements

But those gaps in performance data could be filled by new reporting requirements under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which requires agencies to post performance measures on a public-facing website.

"There's a lot more transparency and accountability required now [of] federal departments and agencies to generate and to publicly make available," Dodaro said. "So I think that will really change the landscape quite a bit and, hopefully, generate more information available to the Congress and the public about these federal programs and activities."

GAO introduced its annual report, "Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue" at a Feb. 28 House Oversight and Government reform committee hearing.

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