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Dr. Coburn Says Government Lacks Accountability in Purchases

Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn Says Government Lacks Accountability in Purchases

Hearing finds government doesn't know what it buys or how much it pays for goods and services

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security, today said the federal government lacks any means of tracking what it buys and what price it pays for goods and services.

"The American taxpayers deserve to know their dollars are spent wisely. It's absolutely inexcusable the government has no real way to track what it buys and how much it pays for goods and services," Dr. Coburn said. "If there's no tracking system in place, we cannot provide effective oversight of government spending, something sorely missed in today's climate of soaring deficits and bloated government."

At Thursday's hearing, it was learned the General Services Administration (GSA) - the chief procurement arm of the federal government - lacks accountability in documenting what products it buys, how much it pays for goods and services and whether the government receives the best price possible.

GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry testified at the hearing that indeed no one at his agency or anyone in the federal government can determine exactly what the government purchases and at what price.

Some of the noted deficiencies of the GSA's Federal Procurement Data System:

* Only records purchases over $2,500.
* Only captures broad categories of products, such as "books," meaning there's not way to know exactly what the product was.
* Does not record information about all bids, including rejected bids and their pricing information.
* Is not universally used by government agencies. The Department of Defense, which is responsible for 60 percent of Federal procurement, is not using the system.
* This data collection system was just launched in 2003. It took the federal government until 2003 to begin collecting even this minimal amount of data.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised concerns about the GSA system's ability to provide timely and accurate information. The GAO also said the system was difficult to use.

"Americans have given us their credit card. They are on the hook for the bill and the ever-accumulating interest. Already, that bill is so big that they can't pay it off, but their children and grandchildren will," Dr. Coburn said. "Congress has a moral obligation to take this trust seriously, and ensure taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible. The demands Americans are making aren't complicated. They want to know what we bought on their dime, how much it cost, and if we did everything we could to haggle for the best deal. It's their grandkids' future on the line, and they deserve to have these questions answered."

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