Bill to curb improper payments likely headed to president’s desk

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Charles Dharapak/AP

The lame-duck House on Thursday approved by voice vote its version of a Senate-passed bill to beef up protections against government payments to ineligible people who claim retiree or disability payments.

The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act (H.R. 4053) was introduced in 2011 by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and cleared the Senate in August.

“The Office of Personnel Management inspector general found that over the past five years, $600 million in federal employee retirement and disability benefits were paid out to the deceased,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a statement. “We can save money by making government work better.”

Because of minor changes, the bill is headed back to the Senate for a final vote.

Agencies sent out an estimated $108 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2012, Issa said. The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and modified, would allow use of improved information technology to reduce improper payments, enable federal agencies to share data and require the Obama administration to implement a “Do Not Pay” initiative to prevent fraud. President Obama issued a memorandum creating a “Do Not Pay” list in 2010.

The administration in November announced that under its Campaign to Cut Waste, it had cut the error rate in government payments to contractors, grantees and beneficiaries from 5.4 percent to 4.3 percent. The savings over three years was $47 billion, just short of the administration’s goal of saving $50 billion by the end of fiscal 2012.

Carper, in a statement last month, said his bill, which builds on a similar 2010 law, “takes it to the next level and makes it stronger, more robust and more effective at preventing and recovering improper payments.”

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