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To End Runaway Spending, Hire More Watchdogs

The cost of ensuring government efficiency can be less than zero.

The federal government needs to be more efficient -- that's an opinion you hear all the time, especially among conservatives. Suggestions usually focus on getting the government to do less. Getting it to do the same things better receives little attention and that's a shame. One good way to improve efficiency is to spend more on inspectors general of federal agencies, eligibility reviews for government benefits and the Government Accountability Office. Look no further than yesterday's report from the Treasury Department's Inspector General that the Internal Revenue Service spent $50 million on conferences over two years.

The aim is to scour the government for waste and fraud. Spending on this task usually pays for itself. Inspectors general, disability reviewers and the GAO cover their costs many times over. At the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the inspector general saved $33 for every dollar spent, according to the office's latest report. The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (the federal government's largest IG office) saved $3.8 billion in the first half of 2013. Its budget request for the next fiscal year is $389 million.