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Duplicative U.S. Government Programs Cost Billions, GAO Says

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Congress has made only modest progress on stamping out duplicative programs in the U.S. government, according to a report.

The Government Accountability Office, in a follow-up to a report issued last year, said today there are still scores of overlaps that cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year.

The report counted 160 programs and tax breaks that promote housing, as well as 53 initiatives supporting entrepreneurs. Another 94 programs in 11 agencies promote the development of “green” buildings in the private sector, and there are 15 different financial-literacy programs, GAO said.

“Even limited adjustments could result in significant savings,” said GAO head Gene Dodaro. “Agencies can often realize other kinds of benefits such as improved customer service and decreased administrative burdens.”

The 426-page report updates an analysis the agency, the investigative arm of Congress, issued last March listing 81 areas of duplication. Congress and the Obama administration have addressed 5 percent of those areas. They have partially dealt with 74 percent, meaning there is some progress toward implementation, the report said. The agency said 21 percent weren’t addressed.

“Who is to blame for this maze of government programs? Very simply, it is Congress,” said Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who sponsored legislation requiring the annual reports.

‘Shirk Its Duty’

The report is “a reminder Congress continues to shirk its duty to address even blatant areas of waste and mismanagement of taxpayer funding,” Coburn said.

President Barack Obama has asked lawmakers for expanded authority to consolidate the bureaucracy, saying he would first use it to combine six agencies dealing with trade and commerce. Under his plan, the administration would offer proposals to merge programs that would be subject to up-or-down votes by Congress.

The plan, co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Mark Warner of Virginia, hasn’t been put to a vote in either chamber.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider in Washington at Jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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