Grapevine: Gov't mistakes that cost the taxpayer billions

With holidays upon us -- tonight we begin our look back on the year -- as only the Grapevine can--a reflection on some of the best-- or some may say worst-- stories of 2015.

Sometimes-- we look at the devil in the details -- or small issues.

Then there are those government mistakes -- that cost-- you-- the taxpayer-- billions of dollars.

Pots of Gold

Your government wasted $125 billion in improper payments in 2014 -- an increase of $19 billion from the previous year. That's according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The three biggest offenders were --

Medicare -- with almost $48 billion in waste.

Treasury's earned income tax credit -- posting nearly $18 billion in improper payments.

Health and Human Services also claims the bronze medal -- with Medicaid wasting $17.5 billion.

The White House agrees something needs to be done.

Quote -- "The time has come for a more aggressive strategy to reduce the levels of improper payments."

Happy Tax Day

Above the doors of the IRS building here in Washington is the quote "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

Civilized, maybe, but not efficient, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The GAO looked at the inefficiency, duplication, and waste across the government and found plenty.

42 programs exist across six departments for non-emergency medical transportation.

USA Today uses a toy gun as a classic example of inefficiency. Children's toys are under the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If the toy has a laser sight, the FDA is involved.

And the plastic orange tip that indicates it is a toy is regulated by the Commerce Department.

One of the 132 actions the GAO recommends is to take over a $1.5 billion in funding to the U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund because its objectives are completed.

The government has addressed 37 percent of recommendations from previous reports -- saving roughly $20 billion since 2011.

It is projected to save another $80 billion over the next eight years

A billion here, A billion there

What is a few billion dollars between friends?

Last year -- the decade-long development of the long-range strike bomber was estimated to cost $33 billion.

The Fiscal Times reports the new number the service projected was $58 billion.

The explanation was quite simple -- for the $25 billion difference.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says--

"It was a mistake. It was a regrettable mistake. It occurred in part because of human error and in part because of process error."

Turns out both numbers were incorrect -- with the actual estimate being $41 billion -- but who's counting?

The Air Force says the numbers have been corrected with Congress -- and those responsible have been counseled.