Recommendations from the Government Accountability Office are 81 percent successful at driving targeted change at federal agencies. A Deloitte study that used text analytics to sift through more than 40,000 GAO reports found the agency is well worth the effort and money spent to keep it operating at full strength.
Comptroller of the United States Gene Dodaro echoed that sentiment, as he defended a larger budget for fiscal 2016 before the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee on Tuesday. He estimated GAO returns about $100 for every $1 invested in his agency.
“[Fiscal 2014’s] result of implementing our recommendations, there was over $54 billion in financial benefits to the Congress,” said Dodaro. The agency currently operates on a $535 million budget with a workforce of about 3,000 employees.
The larger budget request would primarily channel the extra money into the workforce, Dodaro told the subcommittee. He asked for a 5.9 percent increase, or about $31 million. He said that would pay for 40 more full-time employees. Dodaro said the optimum increase would be 250 full-time employees, but wanted to keep his request prudent.
“I’m not asking to get to that level,” said Dodaro. “As the auditor of the federal government’s financial statements, I understand our fiscal position right now in terms of the deficit and debt. But I do believe the 40 additional positions will enable us to tackle very important issues.”
Self-perpetuating success rate
GAO’s successful return on investment is consistent and thorough because of continued oversight, according to the Deloitte study. While the intent of the study was to test the reliability of text analytics to learn more about federal agencies, it specifically chose GAO because of how it monitors its own recommendations and measures successful implementation.
“In order to mark [a reform plan] as ‘complete,’ GAO goes back to the agency and does basically an audit,” said Bill Eggers, Deloitte’s global public sector research director, on In Depth with Francis Rose. “It requires proof, not just their word that something’s actually been accomplished.”
This approach underscores Dodaro’s rationale for a larger budget in fiscal 2016. He brought three main points to the subcommittee as a way to persuade the appropriators to grant more money. First was the return on investment, and second was the plan to channel the money into the reliable and capable workforce. Third was promoting the practicality of the request; in other words, making it clear he consciously chose to bring a low-ball offer to the table.