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Jackson Cit Pat: It is time to hold Washington accountable for wasteful spending

August 7, 2015
Opinion Editorial

Only in Washington can bureaucrats get away with spending money on nothing.

It's the very definition of government waste, and I'm fighting to stop it.

Currently, the federal government is racking up service fees to administer thousands of expired, empty grant accounts, costing taxpayers millions per year.

Bipartisan legislation I recently introduced with Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) would reform the grant management process to help put an end to this fiscal malpractice.

It's called the Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act, and the bill requires federal agencies to take action to identify and close out thousands of expired grant accounts with a zero balance.

When an agency shuts down a grant account, it essentially performs an audit to ensure the funds were used effectively and for their intended purpose. If done properly, the closeout process makes the grants less susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse.

However, according to a report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), the grant closeout process is plagued by significant delays and mismanagement. 

The GAO report identified more than $794 million in funding remaining in expired grant accounts, and it also discovered that agencies were paying roughly $2 million in annual service fees to maintain accounts with zero dollars in them. 

By streamlining the grant management process with the GONE Act, we can ensure taxpayer resources are not languishing in expired accounts or are being wasted to maintain accounts with nothing in them.

Another bipartisan bill I introduced to crack down on wasteful spending is the Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, which I authored along with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN).

It's based on the simple premise that the American people should know what their government does with their tax dollars.

The Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act makes it easier to evaluate federal government spending by requiring agencies to identify their programs, provide basic information like what the programs do and how they perform, and tell us how much they cost. 

Every successful business in America can tell you what their staff is spending their time on, the cost of their activities, and whether they are reaching their goals.

But the federal government doesn't have that ability.

If we get that data under the Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, we can streamline or eliminate duplicative, outdated programs that have lost their intended purpose or impact so we stop throwing away the American people's hard earned tax dollars.

Both of these bipartisan bills are an important step forward to providing programs that are accountable, effective, and efficient. They recently cleared the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and await further debate on the House floor.

Faced with a $18 trillion national debt, it's past time to get Washington's fiscal house in order and responsibly manage our budget to eliminate wasteful spending—just like Michigan families and small businesses do every day.

-- U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes Jackson County. This op-ed originally appeared in the August 7 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot.