This week, two taxpayer watchdog groups endorsed H.R. 3393, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) of 2009, introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy and Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray. The National Taxpayers Union and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste support this bipartisan legislation to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse resulting from lack of oversight on the part of federal agencies. The bill would reduce the estimated $98 billion in improper payments- those that occur when a federal agency pays too much or pays twice for a product or service. Improper payments may occur as a result of fraud, or from poor financial management systems that don't detect mistakes before federal dollars are misspent.
According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the nearly $98 billion in improper payments federal agencies are estimated to have made in FY 2009 is more than twice the total budget for the Department of Homeland Security, and more than seven times as much as the federal government spent on the Children's Health Insurance Program this year.
"I'm proud that the National Taxpayers Union and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste have endorsed this critical legislation, because at time when our families are watching our expenses, Americans expect their government to do the same," said Rep. Patrick Murphy. "There is simply no excuse to lose billions of taxpayer dollars to improper payments every year- the savings from this bipartisan bill should be redirected to middle class tax cuts."
In their endorsement, the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste stated that it is "imperative that we do everything we can to prevent further waste in order to ensure that funds are being distributed to those who need them the most." Both groups recognized that the "bipartisan legislation would help to facilitate this process by lowering the improper payment threshold for agencies, requiring agencies to develop action plans to avoid future waste, and financially penalizing agencies that fail to meet accounting and recovery benchmarks", urging Members of Congress to support this "pro-taxpayer position".
The IPERA Act would help identify, reduce and eliminate improper payments, as well as recover lost funds that federal agencies have improperly disbursed. Specifically, this legislation would:
* Improve Transparency This bill would lower the reporting threshold so Congress and the general public have a better picture of the problem we face. Currently, OMB has set the reporting threshold for improper payments very high, meaning millions of dollars in erroneous payments go unreported -- and potentially unaddressed -- each year;
* Prevent Improper Payments The bill would help prevent improper payments from happening in the first place by requiring federal agencies report on their corrective action plans and the improper payment reduction targets they are using to address their payment error problems;
* Recover Overpayments Under current law, agencies are only required to seek to recover overpayments they make if they hand out more than $500 million in payments to contractors each year. IPERA would expand the use of recovery auditing by requiring that all agencies with outlays of more than $1 million perform recovery audits on their programs and activities; and,
* Hold Agencies Accountable IPERA would require that agencies hold top managers accountable for their progress, or lack of progress, in addressing their improper payment problems.