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Congress orders better tracking of improper payments

Dec. 21, 2012 - 02:40PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Agencies will have to do more to track billions of dollars in improper payments, under a bipartisan bill that won final congressional approval Thursday and now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., requires the Defense Department and other agencies to improve estimates of improper payments, typically defined as payments to the wrong person, in the wrong amount or for the wrong reason. In fiscal 2012, improper payments totaled an estimated $108 billion, down from $115 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

But the reliability of current and past data has in some instances come into question. Although DoD officials reported about $1 billion improper payments in 2010, for example, both the department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office have said that figure may be low.

The bill, approved by the House earlier this month, unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday. Among other new requirements in the legislation, agencies could no longer rely solely on contractors to voluntarily report mistaken payments, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a news release.

The bill also would mandate several steps the Obama administration has already undertaken, such as a “Do Not Pay” list intended to prevent payments to dead people, federal prison inmates and contractors who have been barred or suspended from federal work.

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