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Monday, August 04, 2008

Senate committee backs measure to reduce payment errors

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday approved legislation designed to beef up efforts to recover improper payments made by the government.

Several years in the making, the bill (S. 2583) was crafted in response to testimony by the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies that money improperly spent was not being recovered in sufficient amounts.

The bill, which passed on a voice vote, calls for every governmental agency to designate an individual to be in charge of recovering erroneous payments and puts in enforcement provisions to underscore the effort.

Under the legislation, if an agency can show that it is doing the work, it will get extra money for enforcement. Conversely, if Congress determines that sufficient progress is not being made, the agency would have to submit to a re-authorization process, or ultimately, freeze their budget.

As originally introduced, the bill's enforcement provision called for a suspension of appropriations to the agency if it did not collect sufficient payments. But Carper said the language was softened a bit to make it less onerous.

Each agency with outlays of $1 or more has to conduct a recovery audit of all programs and activities to assist in recouping improper payments. OMB is charged with providing guidance to the agencies and preparing an annual report on the results.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the House, but no action has yet been taken.

-Elaine Povich, GovExec.com

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