This should come as no surprise, given the breathtaking scope of the lapses by the Minerals Management Service that came to light during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The transgressions, catalogued by Interior's inspector general, included gifts, trips and football tickets given to inspectors, who sometimes let oil and gas companies fill in their own inspection forms.
The MMS was reorganized in the wake of the spill and split into two new agencies -- the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resource Revenue. But the report found the department has ignored more than 50 recommendations issued by the GAO in recent years.
The GAO has been sending its list of programs at risk for fraud, abuse or mismanagement to lawmakers since 1990. It usually contains a few regulars, such as expensive Pentagon weapons programs or the tax collecting abilities of the IRS.
Occasionally, a few of the repeat performers drop off. The GAO found that two of the 31 agencies on the 2009 list -- Defense Department security clearances and the Census Bureau – improved enough that they're not included in this year's offering. The Census Bureau turned in the 2010 count early and under budget, while the Pentagon sped up the timeliness of security clearances.
Here are some of the most inefficient performers:
Department of Homeland Security: The third largest government department, with more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of $40 billion, has been on the high-risk list since 2003 -- a year after it was created. Absorbing 23 separate agencies into a single department has proved challenging, the GAO noted. The chief failing: effective management. Management weaknesses remain in "acquisition, financial management, human capital and information technology."
Food Safety (multiple agencies): Although the Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department are primarily responsible for protecting the safety of America's food supply, 15 agencies administer 30 food-related laws. Although the FDA's authority has been expanded, the GAO describes the rest of the food safety system as "fragmented" and lacking in an overall plan that includes "results-oriented goals" to protect food.
Environmental Protection Agency: Shortcomings in the department's ability to assess the risk of toxic chemicals to the nation's air and water supplies put the EPA on the high-risk list in 2009. The GAO noted improvements in the department's ability to make timely assessments in its IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) program. But it still faulted the EPA for its program to assess the risks of industrial chemicals. Some 80,000 chemicals already on the market are not routinely assessed by the EPA. The agency "does not often use its authority to obtain more information," the GAO found.