Says none of the government programs targeted for elimination or severe cutback in House Republican spending plans "appeared on the GAO's list of government programs at high risk of waste, fraud and abuse."

Dennis Kucinich on Thursday, February 17th, 2011 in a House committee hearing

Rep. Dennis Kucinich says GOP budget cuts don't target GAO high-risk areas

Temporary spending bills have kept the government from shutting down while Congress tries to reach a long-term agreement for the current fiscal year, which ends in October.

Disagreement over spending cuts created the impasse. Lawmakers have clashed over both the quantity and the quality of reductions. Rep. Dennis Kucinich raised the issue of accountability at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on which he sits.

In the debate over the continuing resolution that would keep the government up and running, the House had supported amendments that would severely cut or entirely eliminate entities or programs which provide critical assistance to the most vulnerable Americans. Some of those amendments, he said, would eliminate funding for research and for programs needed to address pressing social and economic issues.

"To my knowledge, none of these existing programs appeared on the GAO's list of government programs at high risk of waste, fraud and abuse." Kucinich said.

The GAO is the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Meanwhile, he noted, several Department of Defense initiatives that ranked prominently in the GAO high-risk report as programs that remain very susceptible to fraud and abuse remained untouched.

Kucinich went on to ask U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro if Congress can be sure that budget requests from the Pentagon reflect actual cost (short answer: no) and to quote an assessment by eight former defense officials that burgeoning budgets have brought weaker forces at higher costs.

PolitiFact Ohio decided to take a look at Kucinich’s claim about the GAO list.

The high risk list is part of a 20-year-old program designed to "identify and help resolve serious weaknesses in areas that involve substantial resources and provide critical services." It has designated more than 50 areas as high risk since 1990, and taken more than a third off the list for improvement.

"The 30 areas that we have on the high-risk list right now," Dodaro said, "represent tremendous opportunities to save billions of dollars and, if actions are taken appropriately, to improve the performance and accountability of the federal government."

Our review of the list, and of reductions proposed to the continuing budget resolution, found that Kucinich was accurate -- there was no crossover, and none of the high-risk areas were marked for elimination.

We also learned that the high-risk roster is not just a hit list of targets ripe for defunding.

The program identifies areas in need of improvement, but not necessarily reduction or elimination, said Christopher Mihm, the GAO's managing director of strategic issues. Some of them could have direct impact on the budget, he said, but "it's not just a matter of 'If we fix it, the appropropriation will decrease.'"

For example, the high-risk list includes the Internal Revenue Service's enforcement of tax laws. The net tax gap -- the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid -- was estimated at $295 billion.

"You get 5 percentage points off that (through better enforcement) and you're getting real money," Mihm said (Collecting 5 percent of that $295 billion would yield nearly $15 billion for the government).

Similarly, the GAO says the Interior Department is not reasonably sure it’s collecting its share of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues from federal lands and waters. The GAO says more resources, not cutbacks, are needed for reforms.

Kucinich put the Pentagon in a different category.

The GAO and the Defense Department’s inspector general say it does not and cannot even track how or where it spends its money. The eight former defense officials cited by Kucinich, and other officials, recommend that Pentagon spending be frozen at current spending levels until it can pass audits of all of its programs, agencies, and contractors.

Kucinich’s statement is factually accurate, and does not in this case require qualification.

On the Truth-O-Meter it rates as True.