Last night, the United States Senate passed The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (S.1508). The bill, sponsored by Sens. Carper, Lieberman, Collins, McCaskill, and Coburn in the Senate and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) in the House, requires federal agencies to identify and recover the estimated $98 billion of taxpayer dollars lost annually due to improper payments. The Senate bill will now be sent to the House for their approval and then to the President's desk for his signature.
"I'd like to thank my colleagues for recognizing the necessity of this legislation to reduce our nation's growing deficit by curbing fraud and abuse throughout government agencies," said Sen. Carper. "Our legislation will help save millions of taxpayer dollars by requiring federal agencies to identify and recover improper payments. Agencies will have to be more aggressive in adopting proven strategies to root out waste, fraud and abuse. In addition to requiring agencies to identify and recover improper payments, we're giving agencies the tools to prevent wasteful spending from happening in the first place. I'm happy to see two key additions to the final bill that will take a stronger stance on identifying fraud and eliminating errors that cause overpayments by federal agencies. I look forward seeing the bill signed into law by the President in the near future."
"As we work to reduce the budget deficit, we must also continue to reduce and recover erroneous payments made by federal agencies," said Senator Joe Lieberman. "This bill will not only accomplish that but also boost transparency and help prevent future improper payments from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, which are so crucial to America's future. Such payments have climbed to almost $100 billion, and in this era of debt and deficits, that is simply unacceptable. I am proud to join my colleagues in passing such fiscally responsible legislation."
"The federal government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, and we must guard against the risk of improper federal payments," said Sen. Susan Collins. "Our legislation improves current law by increasing reporting requirements for programs that have been identified as vulnerable to improper payments and it mandates the increased use of audits. Additionally, any monies recovered during the auditing process of entitlement and tax credit programs would be returned for their designated use. This change is important in order to help ensure that entitlement and tax credit program beneficiaries, such as Social Security recipients, receive appropriate funding."
"As a former auditor, I know the importance of keeping a close, watchful eye on agencies that consistently make payment errors. I'm encouraged that this act will provide for the identification and recovery of billions of dollars lost to improper payments and put the money back in the taxpayers' pockets," said Sen. McCaskill. "With our record-breaking deficits, now more than ever, we need to do better at taking a close and careful look at ways we can address waste."
"Each year, the federal government washes billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain through improper payments. This waste is even more unconscionable in the present economy, as American families and businesses are struggling financially," said Senator John McCain. "With an ever-increasing federal government budget and record deficit, we need to exercise greater fiscal responsibility. I'm pleased to co-sponsor this legislation requiring federal agencies to identify improper payments and take appropriate corrective actions."
"At a time when leading economists are warning that our skyrocketing debt and deficits are slowing our economy and job creation, it is critical that Congress act now to make the hard choices that will help put our nation on sustainable course," said Dr. Coburn. "Eliminating improper payments is an important, common sense step in the right direction. I'm pleased Congress was able to work in a bipartisan manner to pass this legislation."
"If a family paid for groceries they didn't get or was charged twice for the same car repair, they would figure out the problem and ensure it didn't happen again," said Congressman Patrick Murphy. "Washington should hold itself to the same standard of fiscal responsibility and this bipartisan bill is a major step in that direction."
The legislation provides important tools to address government waste, including: requiring agencies to produce audited, corrective action plans with targets to reduce overpayment errors; mandating all agencies that spend more than $1 million to perform recovery audits on all their programs; and penalizing agencies that fail to comply with current accounting and recovery laws. Sen. Carper's bill adds important language to further strengthen the legislation pertaining to identifying possible fraud and addressing ongoing errors and vulnerabilities in government payment procedures. These changes were based on recent investigations of recovery auditing by the General Accountability Office (GAO) and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General, which found that recovery audits were useful in identifying and recovering improper payments and in identifying important changes that agencies should make to prevent similar overpayments in the future.