Your Tax Dollars at Work: How Much Government Spending is Waste
When it comes to government spending – locally, at the state level, or the national level – all eyes are on our elected and appointed representatives. The words "government" and "spending" go hand in hand and, for the general public, carry quite a few negative connotations. However, anyone who works for a federal, state, or local branch knows that the government walks a tightrope in regard to managing assets and spending taxpayer money wisely.
We ask the government to spend our tax dollars responsibly on programs, partners, and tools to benefit all of us. But do we really know how much spending is "waste" and how much of the spending is really going towards the programs and products they are being allocated to? We all hope that our dollars are being used responsibly, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to hold our government officials more accountable for controlling waste and spending?
Government Waste: How are your tax dollars being squandered?
When we think of waste, the term "assets" probably isn't the first thought that comes to mind. But in fact, many assets that the government uses that our tax dollars fund go unused and are wasted. In 2015, the group Citizens Against Government Waste released its annual "Prime Cuts" report, which recommended programs that the government could eliminate for some $648 billion in savings the following year. It detailed wasteful spending in almost every category of government, from agriculture to defense, energy to health and human services, justice, labor, transportation, and more.
Also in 2015, Congressman Steve Russell from Oklahoma published the "Waste Watch" report, which identifies ten specific instances of government waste and mismanagement in recent years. The items listed in the reported total over $117 million, which had already been wasted. Congressman Russell said that each item points to more prominent, ongoing issues that merit further oversight, investigation, or action by Congress to protect taxpayer money.
The wasteful spending detailed in both reports is quite surprising. Business owners should know how they run their businesses and what they spend their dollars on. And taxpayers should expect the government to do the same. The reports, unfortunately, show otherwise on many levels.
Money Wasters: Non-Partisan Examples of Poor Spending Decisions
Social Security Waste
The tracking of assets in government goes beyond actual physical items. Consider this finding -- a watchdog review found that at least 6.5 million active Social Security numbers belong to people who are at least 112 years old and likely deceased. Only 35 living individuals worldwide had reached that age as of October 2013. An inspector general's report said the questionable identification numbers put the government at risk of fraud and waste.
Auditors proposed that the Social Security Administration take action to correct its death records. Still, the agency said it did not want to divert resources away from improving payment accuracy with benefits. Think about the spending that was allocated to cover those people who are no longer living and need services or financial assistance from the government. Just another example of waste and ways that asset tracking could help watch spending for unnecessary items and services.
Wasteful Government Spending on IT Assets
Federal spending on IT inventory is also on the rise. We are all aware that technology is evolving, and with that comes new ways of doing things. Changes in technology can be scary for many, and they are hesitant to move forward from how they've always done things. We hear more and more about identity theft, computer/website hacking, stolen data from major retailers/corporations, and issues with cybersecurity. Unfortunately, as technology changes, it can become more vulnerable to those who don't have our best interests at heart. The government has allocated more spending to protect IT infrastructure and prevent such instances from happening, but are they spending those dollars appropriately?
A report released in February 2015 claims the federal government wastes at least half of the $70 billion to $80 billion it spends each year on IT and cybersecurity. However, critics say the metric used to compare agencies with private industry is flawed. The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), which compiled the report, looked at IT spending compared to headcount and found that federal agencies spend, on average, seven times more than private companies on IT per employee. Agencies spend an average of $36,162, while the industry spends $4,867 per employee. Definitely a big difference in the dollars spent. What are they spending the money on exactly?
The report cites examples of wasteful IT spending, such as two instances where the Department of Energy overspent on equipment and software licenses by a combined $2.6 million. Similar issues with unused software licenses cost the IRS some $11.6 million.
Asset tracking allows government entities and businesses alike to scan and track assets as they are added into inventory. This eliminates wasteful spending on duplicate items that are already in use. Asset tracking platforms also come with the ability to add alerts on when software licenses are set to expire or need to be updated – something that is obviously overlooked as detailed in the report.
Consideration of IT Inventory Tracking Software
IT asset management software as part of an overall government asset tracking and management platform is designed to introduce more efficiency to this process. Numerous features can positively impact how the government tracks IT assets and inventory, which turn into time and money savers.
- Streamlined operations: Find a system that doesn't require you to purchase additional hardware, software, or software licenses to use. Those requirements drive up your cost and potentially limit the number of users you can bring into your communication loop.
- Ease of use: The system should be user-friendly and require no special training to master.
- Flexibility/customization: You should import and export data easily from legacy systems and display and organize data in a way that makes sense for your organization. Your prospects for success increase exponentially when you can manage and track your inventory any way you want.
- Price point: While it's not everything, the price point is undeniably important. The less extraneous equipment you have to purchase, and the more users you can bring into the conversation, the better the value for your organization.
Can We Hold the Government Accountable for Spending
A listing of 10 examples of Government waste was published by The Heritage Foundation. The list includes wasteful examples such as:
- Missing $25 billion in "unreconciled transactions affecting the change in net position". In layman's terms, this is $25 billion that was spent by someone, somewhere on something, but auditors do not know who spent it, where it was spent or on what.
- Unused flight tickets totaling $100 million
- Credit card abuse at the Department of Defense
- Medicare overspending
- Funding fictitious colleges and students
So with all the wasteful spending, how do we hold the government accountable for efficient spending and tracking of assets? Do they really even take notice or care about this waste that is being reported in so many different outlets?
One theory as to why government officials are hesitant to act or even acknowledge all this waste is that they see reducing waste on so many perceived small, trivial programs as a thankless job that would go unnoticed back home. With Congress in session for a short period, reducing waste would take precious time away from most lawmakers' higher priorities of increasing spending on popular programs and bringing more financially beneficial projects home.
A second reason is that some of the most wasteful programs are also the most popular (e.g., Medicare), and lawmakers fear that opponents would portray them as "attacking" popular programs.
Consequently, waste and inefficiencies continue to build up, costing taxpayers more while providing beneficiaries with less.
Asset Panda's Government Asset Management Software
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