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Thursday, February 09, 2012

OMB hangs hopes on new tools to cut $50B in improper payments

Agencies cut the amount of improper payments by another $5 billion in 2011. But to reach the administration's three-year goal to reduce the amount of improper payments by $50 billion by the end of the year, they will need a lot of help.

"Obviously it's a big year ahead to try to make the President's goal," said Danny Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget after a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management hearing on improper payments Tuesday. "The good news is that just about every major program is trending downward."

OMB reported in November the improper payment error rate dropped to 4.7 percent in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2010.

Over the last two years, the OMB-led effort reduced the amount of improper payments by $20 billion — meaning the government is $30 billion short of Obama's goal.

OMB, the Treasury Department and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board have several new software and analytical tools in the final stages of testing and will be rolled out to more users this year.

The RAT Board is running a pilot with a small number of agencies who are using the federalaccountability.gov portal. Mike Wood, the board's executive director, said the fraud prevention tool will be expanded to non-Recovery Act spending using funding allocated in the 2012 appropriations bill.

Treasury and OMB are borrowing heavily from the RAT Board's experience and the technologies in its Recovery Operations Center.

Werfel said Treasury is testing tools in its new GoVerify.gov center.

GoVerify.gov is a one-stop portal that provides a variety of data sets making it easy for agencies to search before making contract awards or grants. It will not include every database at first, but Werfel said over time more will be added.

Agencies are under pressure to identify and fix those root causes. The 2010 improper payments bill calls for OMB and Congress to penalize agencies for not improving their improper payments error rate.

Werfel said the first reports to agency inspectors general are due in March.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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