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Government watchdogs identified potential savings of $87.2 billion in 2010 in investigations ranging from defective drugs to disaster loan fraud, according to the annual report by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

At a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday, dozens of awards were given to the top auditors and inspectors in the 12,600-person strong IG community.

 “It’s an honor to stand with you in paying tribute to the exemplary achievements of inspectors general and dedicated IG staff members from more than 70 agencies – large and small – across the federal government,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

IGs can only recommend savings and point out abuses. After their offices file a report it is up to agency leaders to enact changes or the Department of Justice to pursue civil or criminal charges.

The Alexander Hamilton award, the years’ highest honor, went to the Department of Transportation’s OIG “in recognition of significant contributions to enhancing the safety of our nation’s bridges,” he said. Bridge safety has come under increased scrutiny in recent years after one in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13.

Other notable award-winners included:

  • The Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Group audit team. It identified $925.6 million in Community Development Block Grant funds that were inappropriately used to pay down the agency’s disaster loans.
  • The Department Veterans Affairs. Its investigative team won a $750 million civil settlement and criminal fines from GlaxoSmithKline after it found the company had been selling the government defective drugs.
  • The General Services Administration. It was the only other agency where the OIG was awarded for recovered tens of millions of misspent tax dollars. IG Brian D. Miller and his staff did it twice, scoring Excellence Awards for recovering $48 million from Cisco Systems for pricing irregularities and $93.5 million from Verizon Communications for overcharging the agency.
  • The Justice Department’s Project Gunrunner team. More commonly known as “Fast and Furious,” the botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives operation allowed more than 2,000 guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug gangs, as iWatch News first reported in March. Holder has come under fire for what Justice knew about the failed operation.