Just about any time the government wants to spend massive new amounts of your hard-earned on some new program they tell you it won’t cost nearly as much as you think.

That’s because they are going to cut fraud and waste. You know:cutfraudandwaste. It’s an old chestnut, employed with a straight face, I don’t know how.

How difficult is it to find fraud and waste in a vast bureaucracy? If you believe we’re going to save billions by ferreting out dishonesty and waste, read this report on fraud in Medicare (one of the places where we’re going to save lots of money by-yes-cut ting fraud and waste under the new healthcare system):

It took private sleuths hired by Medicare an average of six months last year to refer fraud cases to law enforcement.

According to congressional investigators, the exact average was 178 days. By that time, many cases go cold, making it difficult to catch perpetrators, much less recover money for taxpayers.

A recent inspector general report also raised questions about the contractors, who play an important role in Medicare’s overall effort to combat fraud.

Out of $835 million in questionable Medicare payments identified by private contractors in 2007, the government was only able to recover some $55 million, or about 7 percent, the report found.

 Read the whole story–it’s quite sobering.