Uncovering and ending waste, fraud and abuse
Published 12:03 pm Monday, October 27, 2003
Congressman Jo Bonner
For most Americans, setting a list of financial priorities for their families each month is a challenging task. Do you buy a new pair of sneakers for the kids or a new dress shirt for work? Will you put off taking the family to dinner and a movie in order to save money for the upcoming vacation?
Regardless of the decisions that have to be made, everyone will agree that the key to having a successful and financially secure family rests with prioritizing and cutting back on frivolous and unnecessary expenditures.
The question now becomes why your government should be any different. Certainly, if the country is going to balance its collective check book, it also needs to figure ways to trim back its spending.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives decided to tackle that very issue and find out how the government can spend more efficiently. Representative Jim Nussle, Republican from Iowa and chairman of the House Budget Committee, joined with several of our colleagues from the House and numerous committee chairmen to announce a new program designed to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.
We've all known government spending has been out of control for quite some time; the challenge was to find where this spending could be brought under control.
The results of what Congress has found may be quite surprising.
What was uncovered?
Before I get into some of the specifics of the findings announced in the waste, fraud and abuse (stated from here on simply as WFA) report, I want to put a dollar amount before you.
Think about that for a moment. It's not a specific person's salary, or the cost of a home in south Alabama, or even the balance in someone's savings account.
That amount – $69,000 – is how much the government spends every second on federal programs. Every second of every day, the government spends more than an average family in America earns in an entire year.
With this figure in mind, the Budget Committee set a goal for itself of finding ways to trim one percent of the funding approved by each House committee. That's one penny out of every dollar that we were trying to cut. What we found was surprising; over a period of 10 years, we identified between $85 billion and $100 billion in cumulative fiscal waste.
Let me take a moment to give you a short list of the results of our work:
According to the Energy and Commerce Committee, the government could save $3.7 billion over 10 years if the government were to eliminate duplicate payments to states for welfare and Medicaid administration.
By requiring states to comparison shop on prescription drugs covered by Medicaid, we would be able to save $15.5 billion over a 10-year period.
The House and Ways and Means Committee has reported that by eliminating overpayments in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the government could have saved $2.2 billion in FY 2002 alone.
The Government Accounting Office has reported that Medicare is reimbursing some health agencies at a rate of 25 percent over actual costs. By fixing this
problem, we would be able to save $25.4 billion.
Of course, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other facts and statistics that demonstrate how rampant WFA has become. I have heard of instances where two different health agencies have covered the cost of wheelchairs for eligible retirees and veterans. However, because one does not offer this service on a competitive basis, they charge five times more than the other agency.
Five times more. It's absolutely astonishing and an example of what goes on every day with government spending.
So where do we go from here?
We have certainly taken a major step in identifying the many areas of waste in the federal government. But that's only half the problem. The goal now is to figure out how to tackle these gross financial abuses.
And to do that, we have to hammer home the point that this is not Congress' money, or the president's money, or even Medicare's money – this is your money, and you deserve to have it managed just as well if not better than if you were doing it yourself.
It's certainly more fun to spend someone else's money in certain situations. However, I was not sent to Washington to spend your money; I was sent here to find ways to give you back more of your money and make our government more efficient and responsive.
I applaud Chairman Nussle and my colleagues on the Budget Committee for tackling this daunting task. The work doesn't end here – there are many more
challenges ahead as we try to implement our findings into
concrete and meaningful fiscal changes.
My focus is first and foremost the people of south Alabama, and you can be assured any changes or improvements I recommend will be with the best interests of you and your families in mind.
Please call or write whenever we can be of service.