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Marching On: Sustaining improper payments prevention programs

Improper payments are one of government’s major management challenges. With Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 improper payments totaling almost $140 billion, reducing the number and amount of improper payments made by federal agencies must continue to be a high priority.

To help stem the tide of improper payments, three different laws have been passed: the Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA) of 2002, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) in 2010, and the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act (IPERIA) of 2012. In addition, in 2014 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidance to transform the improper payment compliance framework into one that would be comprehensive, unified and less burdensome.

Despite this, it is not immediately clear whether the new laws and additional guidance have made a positive impact.The increase in the improper payment rate and the sustained level of agencies that are non-compliant with IPERIA raises two questions:

  1. Are agencies’ efforts to prevent improper payments getting worse or are agencies getting better at identifying previously unknown improper payments?
  2. Can agencies meet all the compliance criteria as the current framework requires, and should they be required to if they have demonstrated they will be unable to meet the compliance criteria due to situations outside of their control?

As the FY 2015 reports demonstrated, many larger agencies are still developing effective methods to identify,
estimate and calculate improper payments. Until these agencies have an effective method to do so, they will be unable to set meaningful or realistic reduction targets.

Read the full article on Sustaining Improper Payments Prevention Programs

This article originally appeared in the Winter edition of the Journal of Government Financial Management produced by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA).