Washington, DC – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman and Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) announced today that the Senate has approved legislation requiring federal agencies to identify and report to Congress on programs that may be susceptible to improper payments. Improper payments result from a variety of causes ranging from bureaucratic, such as paying someone twice, to outright fraud.
“The amount of taxpayer dollars wasted year after year because of improper payments is appalling, but even more frustrating is that few agencies disclose these payments, so we have no way of knowing the full extent of this mismanagement,” Senator Thompson said. “This legislation will give us a better grasp of the extent of the problem, which is the first step toward correcting it.”
The Senate passed H.R. 4878, the Improper Payments Information Act, which includes a substitute offered by Senators Thompson and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) that was adopted by the Governmental Affairs Committee. The Thompson-Lieberman substitute builds on legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Horn (R-CA) and clarifies that the agencies’ reports should be publicly disclosed to Congress and it requires the report to include a discussion of the causes of the improper payments, the actions being taken to address the situation, and the results of those actions. The House of Representatives is expected to adopt the substitute amendment when it reconvenes in November.
“Misspent taxpayer dollars violate the public trust. The hard-earned money of American taxpayers should be used to maximum advantage and this legislation takes a step in that direction. It would require agencies to identify areas where money is being misspent, allowing funds to be used for their intended purpose,” said Lieberman.
“Public scrutiny is often the most effective tool in focusing agency managers’ attention on certain issues, and Americans deserve to know if their tax dollars are being mismanaged,” said Thompson. “It is not just the Administration’s responsibility to resolve improper payment issues. Congress holds the purse strings and should also be held accountable should this problem fail to be resolved.”
Senator Thompson recently released a report by the Government Accounting Office that found six government agencies reporting more than $19 billion in wasted taxpayer money. The report also concluded that the actual extent of improper payments government-wide is unknown, but it is likely to be billions of dollars more.