Improper payments bill goes to White House


Congress approved legislation by voice vote on July 14 that would expand federal scrutiny over improper payments.

Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act requires agencies to review agency activities that are susceptible to significant improper payments. "Significant" in the sense that improper payments might have been more than $100 million, or $10 million of all program and activity payments and 2.5 percent of program outlays. The bill now goes to the White House for presidential approval.

An improper payment occurs when a recipient receives either too much or too little of an intended federal payment, or when the recipient misuses the funds, or even when there's a lack of sufficient documentation to prove that a payment was proper.

The federal government made $110 billion worth of improper payments in fiscal 2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget. While OMB doesn't state how much of that figure consists of underpayments, an analysis of incomplete data suggest that underpayment might account for about 15 percent of the total improper payment total.

The act was first proposed by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.).

For more:
- go to the THOMAS webpage for the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act
- read a statement from Sen. Carper and Rep. Murphy
- go to, an OMB website tracking federal efforts against improper payments

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