Chairman Carper Highlights GAO Report on Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act Implementation

WASHINGTON- Today, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) highlighted a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that examined the implementation of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) within 24 federal agencies. The report, Improper Payments: Inspector General Reporting of Agency Compliance under the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA), found that while agencies have made significant progress since IPERA’s passage in 2010, more can be done to ensure effective implementation.

“Today’s GAO report is a reminder that Congress has more work ahead to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent wisely, and waste and fraud is eliminated,” said Chairman Carper. “The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA) requires agency officials to sharpen their pencils and do a better job keeping track of the taxpayer dollars that we entrust to them. I am pleased that a majority of federal agencies have successfully implemented key aspects of the law. However, this report shows that there is more room for improvement.  Cleary, federal agencies have a number of tools at their disposal to identify, reduce and recover improper payments, but they need to use those tools properly in order to achieve results.”

The GAO rated each federal agency based on their execution of a series of seven criteria outlined by IPERA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These implementation steps range from an estimate of the amount of improper payments to establishment of mechanisms for recovery and prevention of improper payments. Overall, the report found that most agencies had made significant improvements in reporting their improper payments and taking action to curb them. For example, 22 agencies reported on their efforts to recover overpayments in FY 2013, compared to only 15 agencies in FY 2011. However, the GAO report also detailed key shortcomings, particularly in lowering improper payments error rates. The report also showed the important role of Congress to ensure that agencies have the legal authority and resources to lower improper payment levels.

“This report shows that Congress still has an important opportunity to work on a bipartisan basis in order to curb billions of dollars in waste and fraud,” Chairman Carper continued. “For example, Congress has yet to pass into law the Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act (IPACE), a commonsense bill to stop improper payments to people who are deceased.  I hope that my colleagues in the House of Representatives will work with me to take up this bill and other important legislation aimed at reducing government waste.”

In 2010, Senators Carper, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and a bipartisan group of colleagues introduced the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA), which was designed to save taxpayers money by reducing unnecessary payments throughout the federal government. The measure, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, requires all federal agencies to adopt a robust process to identify and recover improper payments made to federal contractors. In 2012, Congress enacted and the President signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, which further strengthened the rules requiring federal agencies’ to curb improper payments and mandated the establishment of a government-wide “Do Not Pay List”.