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Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, this week, the Senate passed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012, The IPERA Improvement Act or H.R. 4053. Earlier this month, the House passed the same legislation, which builds on the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA) by taking additional steps to identify and prevent improper payments by Federal agencies. I look forward to seeing the President sign into law this important, bipartisan legislation.

The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 goes beyond IPERA's goals for curbing agencies' improper payments with three main concepts, including provisions that: expand requirements and strengthen estimates for agencies' improper payments; mandate the establishment of a government-wide ``Do Not Pay'' program; and prevent payments to deceased individuals. As my colleagues know, improper payments are payments made in error, such as payments made to the wrong person or in the wrong amount. These kinds of preventable mistake unfortunately result in billions of lost taxpayer dollars every year.

Although we have made great strides in curbing improper payments in the past year, we still have a ways to go to improve transparency and make agencies and agency leadership more accountable for better protecting the taxpayer dollars we entrust to them. At a time of record deficits, we need to be getting the most out of every dollar and cannot afford to waste more than a hundred billion annually. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to see that these measures are enacted, and properly and efficiently implemented.

The bipartisan legislation requires several important steps to curb Federal Government waste and fraud.

First, the bill requires agencies to strengthen the estimation of improper payments. The legislation requires improved and more consistent reporting of improper payment estimates by Federal agencies, based on recommendations from the Department of Defense inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The legislation, for example, would prevent agencies from relying only on voluntary disclosure of improper payments by contractors, as well as require agencies to produce documentation to prove a payment was correct.

Second, the bill mandates the establishment of a government wide ``Do Not Pay'' program. Too often, Federal agencies make improper payments to individuals that could easily be identified as ineligible if payments were more routinely screened against Federal databases. Unfortunately, Federal agencies are not doing this basic eligibility screening before payments are made. Through the initiative, before an agency could award a contract or grant, the agency would have to cross check against the ``Do Not Pay'' database, which will include a central comprehensive database of individuals, contractors, and others who may be ineligible to receive Federal funds, such as companies that are no longer allowed to do work with the Federal Government because of a fraud conviction or similar reason.

The administration is currently establishing a ``Do Not Pay `` program based on the White House executive memorandum, Memorandum on Enhancing Payment Accuracy Through a ``Do Not Pay List.'' However, there was no statutory mandate to proceed. The legislation establishes the ``Do Not Pay'' program in law throughout the Federal Government under a specific timetable.

Third, the legislation targets death fraud and improper payments to deceased individuals. Improper payments include those made to individuals who are deceased, and should therefore no longer be eligible under program rules, yet still receive payments. For example, the Office of Personnel Management Inspector General reported that $601 million in improper payments were made to Federal retirees found to have already died. However, such payments to dead people were not unique to this one program. Improving the collection and use by Federal agencies of data on deceased beneficiaries will help curb hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in improper payments. The IPERA Improvement Act requires that the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with other agencies and stakeholders, determine a plan for curbing improper payments to deceased individuals.

Finally, the legislation requires that the Office of Management and Budget report to Congress on the current efforts by agencies to recover improper payments, including a listing of agencies that employ outside contractors for recovery efforts, and their current levels and targets for recoveries. This reporting can easily be done as part of the annual report on improper payments currently conducted by the OMB.

I believe passage of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 represents an important step toward curbing waste and fraud within the Federal Government. I look forward to working with the administration and Federal agencies to implement the legislation's provisions. I also look forward to working with my congressional colleagues on additional steps during the next legislative session.

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