Government eliminates $47b in bad payments

The government has avoided $47 billion in improper payments over the past three years, dropping its error rate in payments to contractors and to those using government programs to 4.3 percent from a high of 5.4 percent in fiscal 2009, says the White House.

In a blog post from Nov. 21, Comptroller Danny Werfel said that this fell just short of President Obama's goal to save $50 billion by the end of fiscal 2012. Werfel did note, however, that if it included the Defense Department's commercial payments, the total savings would reach $70 billion and the government-wide error rate would be just 3.7 percent.

Werfel gives much of the credit to the administration's "do not pay" policy, the Campaign to Cut Waste and the 2010 Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. Werfel said the measures have cut "payments that are made in the wrong amount to the wrong entity or for the wrong purpose."

The administration did more than double the president's goal of recapturing more than $2 billion in overpayments to contractors by the end of fiscal 2012. Agencies recaptured $4.4 billion in overpayments, and Werfel says this is due in large part to the Medicare Fee-for-Service Recovery Audit Contractor program.

The Office of Management and Budget says the office has not yet released a complete breakdown of how much of the savings were overpayments or mispayments, and what amount was related to underpayments.

Werfel specifically called out savings in programs including the earned income tax credit;  Medicaid; Medicare Fee-for-Service; Pell Grants; Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance; the School Lunch Program; SNAP;  and Unemployment Insurance.

He promised continued work for federal agencies, citing advancements like the Labor Department's efforts to curb erroneous unemployment insurance payments. The agency recently launched a partnership with the New York Department of Labor to develop a UI Integrity Center of Excellence that will work with Labor and other states to develop national strategies to combat fraud and waste.

For more:
- read the blog post
- check out the Do Not Pay tool

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