April 28, 2015

Manchin and Fischer Introduce the GONE Act

Bipartisan Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act Would Close Expired Grant Accounts, Saving Taxpayer Dollars

Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to close out thousands of expired grant accounts, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  The bill, known as S. 1115 – The Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act was first introduced by Senators Fischer and Manchin in 2013. This legislation would require agencies to close out expired, empty grant accounts. It would also require federal agencies to identify exactly why those accounts were never closed in the first place.

“Fixing America’s finances and getting our financial house in order has always been one of my top priorities, especially when we can cut waste, fraud and abuse,” Senator Manchin said. “It is truly remarkable how much this country can save if the federal government cuts the fat and not the muscle from many of our programs, especially ones that are no longer serving the American people. Our taxpayer dollars should be spent on programs and grant opportunities that actually support the people who we as Americans value most – including our children, veterans and seniors – not on administering empty grant accounts that help nobody. I am proud to work with Senator Fischer on this bipartisan legislation that addresses head-on our government’s wasteful spending.

"I'm proud to join my colleague, Senator Joe Manchin in putting forth common-sense legislation that removes waste while saving taxpayer dollars,” Senator Fischer said.  “We’ve started by targeting zero-balance grant accounts where enormous charges are being accrued to maintain empty space. American taxpayers deserve to know where their money is being spent – and when it is not, our focus must shift to alleviating our debts and preventing further waste. Bipartisan solutions are possible, and by working together, Senator Manchin and I have found new areas to improve our government while protecting American taxpayers."

In April of 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Grants Management: Action Needed to Improve the Timeliness of Grant Closeouts by Federal Agencies.” The study examined the largest civilian payment system for grants, known as the Payment Management System. The GAO report also evaluated the grant closeout process and detailed costs to taxpayers for delays of expired grant accounts with an empty balance. Their findings revealed the following:
• “…[Payment Management System] users were charged a total of roughly $173,000 per month to maintain the more than 28,000 expired grant accounts with zero dollar balances listed on the yearend closeout report” (Page 19).

• “Overall, the total charges for all expired grants with a zero dollar balance would represent roughly $2 million in fees if agencies were billed for these accounts for the entire year” (Page 19).

• “We found roughly 9,770—about 34 percent—of the expired grant accounts with no undisbursed balances remained open 3 or more years past the grant expiration date” (Page 19).

The Washington Post reported on these accounts in April of 2013, noting:

“It is one of the oddest spending habits in Washington: This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero. They are supposed to be closed. But nobody has done the paperwork yet.”