Imagine filling up your gas tank and realizing that the price you were charged was more than the price advertised. What would you do?
You would get in your car, drive away, go about your business and fill up at the same gas station paying the same inflated price next time you needed gas, right? Wrong.
As mind-boggling as it may seem, that is exactly what the federal government does every day in a host of programs.
The price tag for this practice was $115.3 billion in 2011 alone, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The government watchdog found some 79 programs, spanning 17 agencies, making “improper payments” and often doing nothing to recoup the wasted taxpayer resources.
The rates at which some of these agencies are wasting tax dollars are astounding. The Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Loan, for example, has an improper-payment rate of some 28 percent. The school-lunch program has a rate of 16 percent and, not to be outdone, school breakfast clocks in at 25 percent.
Enough is enough.
I have introduced legislation that would hold those administering these programs to account. My proposal would require agencies to submit an audit with their annual budget request to Congress. If the error rate in a program is not reduced compared to the previous year, the agency responsible would see its administrative budget reduced by the error-rate percentage.
Therefore, if the unemployment-insurance program cannot reduce its current improper payment rate of 12 percent by next year, the Department of Labor, which runs the program, would see its administrative budget cut by 12 percent.
The “Eliminate Preventable Waste Act” has earned widespread support from taxpayer advocacy organizations and budget watchdogs like Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America, National Taxpayers Union and others.
This common-sense step would increase accountability and ensure all public officials are committed to making government more efficient and effective.
After all, isn’t that a goal around which we should all be able to unite?
Kingston serves the 1st Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Liberty and Long counties. He also is running for the U.S. Senate.