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GAO Lauds Itself in Annual Report

Allies of the Government Accountability Office who fought tooth and nail against budget cuts can claim a degree of vindication based on a report the agency released today — on itself.

In its annual report on its fiscal 2011 performance released today, the GAO said it had identified $45.7 billion in savings for the federal government last year, a return of $81 for every dollar spent. The figure is less than the nearly $50 billion the GAO said it saved in fiscal 2010 but exceeds its fiscal 2011 target of $42 billion.

“Fiscal 2011 continued a very active and challenging time for GAO, yet we succeeded at performing our mission, responding to mandates and accomplishing many of our goals while managing budget constraints,” Comptroller General Gene Dodaro wrote in the report’s introduction.

Those budget challenges were reflected in the report’s portion on hiring. In fiscal 2011, the GAO said, the intention was to hire 90 new staff members. But because of warnings that Congressional appropriators wanted to significantly decrease its budget for fiscal 2012, the agency adjusted its goal to 56. Ultimately, it took on 47 new employees.

While the House passed a legislative branch appropriations bill that would have cut the GAO’s budget 6 percent below the fiscal 2011 spending level, the Senate Appropriations Committee wanted to go further, cutting 7.6 percent.

A group of Senators led by Tom Coburn condemned the proposed cuts, particularly at the level put forth by his own chamber. The Oklahoma Republican released an almost 30-page report blasting efforts at cutting GAO spending and suggesting that such cuts would lessen the effectiveness of the agency.

Ultimately, the fiscal 2012 omnibus spending bill went with the House’s allocation. Though the GAO took some austerity measures, including the elimination of 47 contractor positions and closure of its technical and law libraries, no employees were laid off.

Coburn said in a statement to Roll Call that the GAO report on its fiscal 2011 performance is a testament to the important role it serves.

“This report demonstrates the invaluable service GAO provides to Congress and taxpayers,” Coburn said. “GAO has shown Congress hundreds of billions in recommended savings in the past year alone.

“Unfortunately, Congress has failed to implement their recommendations and continues to waste billions on duplicative, wasteful and ineffective programs,” Coburn continued. “The fact that committees continue to give GAO work proves that everyone values GAO’s work.”

Other findings of the GAO report on the GAO include:

The GAO recommended 1,318 improvements to “broad program and operational areas across the government,” more than its target number of 1,200 but again fewer than its fiscal 2010 total of 1,361. Congress also implemented 80 percent of its suggestions, right on target and 2 points behind the fiscal 2010 number.

The agency also testified at 174 Congressional hearings, while noting that this number did not meet its goal of 200. In fiscal 2010, the GAO presented 192 testimonies before Congress.

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