J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Largest Obstacle to Clean Federal Books Is the Pentagon, GAO Chief Says

No one knows exactly how much money the government wastes.

One of the key challenges to curbing wasteful government spending, lawmakers say, is that no one knows exactly how much is being wasted.

An estimated $107.7 billion made in improper payments last year, for example, does not include faulty payments by the agency with the most problem-plagued finances -- the Defense Department, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said Wednesday at a House hearing on agencies’ difficulties tracking and documenting spending.

Answering questions on topics ranging from intergovernmental communication to performance measures to use of information technology in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Dodaro summarized recent Government Accountabilty Office critiques of agency financial statements and called for heightened congressional oversight as the best single way to help clean them up.

Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the hearing because “President Obama is asking the American people to trust government and give them more authority over their money,” he said. “But it is getting harder to get good execution of existing accountability, and the government must begin performing basic math better. The “looming Affordable Care Act,” with its links to data systems run by the Internal Revenue Service, risks having patients “find their health records on the Internet,” Issa said.

Issa stressed that the government’s auditability problems cross administrations and that the search for solutions to improving performance is bipartisan.

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