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Posted at 12:36 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Is the GAO boss not giving enough credit?

By Ed O'Keefe

Gene L. Dodaro, head of the Government Accountability Office, writes on the pages of today's New York Times (boo!) about his agency's biennial assessment of poor-performing government agencies and programs.

"Since we started this list of programs at high risk of such problems two decades ago, our office has come to update it with each new Congress, and history shows that sustained, focused oversight from lawmakers and administration officials can save billions of dollars and improve services," Dodaro writes. "But while over one-third of the programs we listed previously have come off the list over the years, dozens of others have moved onto it. The latest high-risk list presents 30 areas ripe for Congress and President Obama to take action."

Dodaro notes that the list dropped the Defense Department's personnel security clearance program and the 2010 Census:

Both dealt sufficiently with identified vulnerabilities to warrant their removal. Three factors contributed to this success: high-level support from agencies, clear measures with which to gauge progress and strong Congressional oversight. Credit goes to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for holding the agencies involved accountable.

Later in his piece, Dodaro also thanks "Top agency officials and the Office of Management and Budget" for working with GAO on the top concerns.

But -- as GovExec's Tom Shoop rightly noted this morning -- don't the workers who actually helped make the changes deserve some credit too? What about the GAO auditors who toiled for hours to draft the reports that raised the alarm bells?

"High-level political support in agencies and congressional oversight are important factors, but they're not what gets the job done in addressing age-old problems and emerging issues," Shoop writes. "That task falls to career federal employees on the front lines."

Hear hear. Perhaps this is a good example of watchdogs caressing the hands that feed them. Though in theory GAO and federal inspectors general are politically independent, they all depend on good relationships with lawmakers and the White House to ensure sustained funding and political support.

Thoughts? Read Dodaro's op-ed and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 16, 2011; 12:36 PM ET
Categories:  FY-Eye, Oversight  
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I am a retired federal employee and have been writing to government officals since retiring in 2006. The office I retired from Office of the Special Trustee (OST), had a published IG report in 2006 showing that management had an unethical relationship with a contractor. The same management is still in place at OST, they also established a duplicate office for storing trust records at Lenexa, KS which they staffed with OST employees in 2004. The job of researching and retiring trust records was already being accomplished by National Archive Records Administration (NARA). When is waste and abuse of federal dollars going to be scrutinized and these federal dollars being spent by incompent federal managers going to stop?

Posted by: shunka | February 17, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

If you've been writing about something since 2006, you're lucky you haven't been sent to Gitmo yet.

It isn't waste, it's stimulus.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 17, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Gene Dodaro is right about the key varibles for successfully reducing vulnerable programs. Of course the front line workers and GAO itself are responsible for much of the actual work. But if problems get solved, its high level involvement, performance measures, and accountability that makes it happen.

Posted by: Viewpoint2 | February 17, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

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