Did the government just burn $125 billion?

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$125 billion dollars.

That’s how much money the General Accounting Offices (GAO) says federal agencies wasted, lost to fraud or spent on duplicative programs despite hundreds of all but ignored GAO recommendations to address these issues over the last five years according to a report published in The Washington Times.

440 GAO recommendations were made involving 180 service areas where federal agencies could cut back on overlapping and duplicative spending programs but only 29 percent of these recommendations were implemented according to the report.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a private watchdog group, said the GAO survey strengthens their argument that incidences of government waste and abuse are rampant and that taxpayers are footing the bill. ATR tax policy director Ryan Ellis said:

“According to GAO, the federal government made about $125 billion in improper payments in 2014 alone. Solving that would give you enough money to kill the death tax, repeal the federal gas tax and airline ticket tax, end all federal excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco and remove all federal taxes on phone and Internet bills…”

“After that, there would still be enough money left over to give everyone in America a tax cut of $60 just for having a pulse.”

For ignoring these recommendations, federal bureaucrats earned The Washington Times Golden Hammer Award, “a weekly distinction given by The Washington Times highlighting examples of wasteful federal spending.”

Leslie Paige, vice president for policy and communications at the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste said:

“The report just emphasizes for the umpteenth time that wasteful spending is marbled throughout the bureaucracy, and there are hundreds of millions in savings there for the taking, if only Congress would exercise its constitutional mandate to exercise oversight and then act to winnow out the programmatic underbrush and force overdue management changes…”

GAO investigators warned that unless the government takes firm action to end waste fraud and abuse, the government will be forced to cut back through blunt instruments like sequestration to cope with the financial toll. The GAO report highlighted instances where federal agencies with similar or identical programs overlapped in funding.

“For example, (the GAO) reported in 2013 that a total of 31 federal departments and agencies invested billions of dollars to collect, maintain and use geospatial information — information linked to specific geographic locations that support many government functions, such as maintaining roads and responding to natural disasters…”

The GAO report targeted the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for mismanaging programs most responsible for wasteful spending.

“For the first time in recent years, the government-wide improper payment estimate increased in fiscal year 2014, primarily due to significant increases in the improper (IRS) payment estimates for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)”.

“These programs combined account for over 76 percent of the government-wide estimate. We have made numerous recommendations that if effectively implemented, could help improve program management, reduce improper payments in these programs, and achieve cost savings.”

The Washington Times could not reach HHS for comment. The IRS blamed budget cuts and manpower shortages to explain away the improper payments cited in the report.