Imagine a deeply indebted household paying two companies to cut the same lawn, a shopper going to Costco and not buying bulk or a failing company paying billions to study itself.

You don’t have to imagine hard. Uncle Sam is essentially doing all of the above right now.

That’s the message of a new Government Accountability Office report that has identified billions of dollars the government could save just by ending duplicate contracts and eliminating unnecessary programs.

“Selected agencies could better leverage their buying power and achieve additional savings,” the GAO said in a report this month that highlighted 31 areas of potential savings. It estimated that each one percent saved by agencies could return $4 billion annually to the treasury.

Take, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services and its Medicare Advantage Quality Bonus Payment Demonstration. The program has already spent more than $6 billion looking for cheaper alternatives to existing Medicare Advantage plans. The GAO says taxpayers would save more — $2 billion in all – if it simply canceled the last year of the program.

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