AGA released two reports identifying specific steps that all levels of government can take to get more for their money, promote program excellence and reduce improper payments. The papers summarize two special sessions conducted this summer during AGA's training event in Dallas.
One session examined lessons learned by governments at the forefront of implementing shared service arrangements; the other explored the feasibility of developing a common strategy to reduce improper payments across all levels of government.
The reports, entitled, "Envisioning and Realizing the Promises of Shared Services," and "Reducing Improper Payments through Collaboration," are available in AGA's Thought Leadership Library.
The sessions revealed that shared services can be used to accomplish critical government objectives, including efforts to mitigate improper payments. AGA Executive Director Relmond P. Van Daniker explained that a number of federal databases are actually shared services that help states mitigate improper payments by improving their ability to determine program eligibility and payment amounts.
For example, "the National Directory of New Hires maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helps states mitigate improper payments," Van Daniker said. "The national directory allows state agencies to match new hires, reported by employers, with individuals owing child support. It further helps state agencies reduce unlawful or erroneous public assistance payments, including payments for welfare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) and Medicaid payments."
In a similar vein, the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) is a shared service that collects delinquent debts owed to federal agencies or states. Jeffrey Schramek, U.S. Department of the Treasury(Treasury), spoke during each session, alluded to the success of TOP. Under TOP, federal agencies and states can offset delinquent debts - including overpayments -against appropriate federal and state payments. "TOP's successful state program recovered more than $3 billion for the states, alone, in 2012," said Schramek.
Arizona Comptroller, Clark Partridge, co-chair of AGA's Intergovernmental Partnership, highlighted how AGA's intergovernmental ToolKits and guides help to reduce improper payments. During the session on improper payments, Partridge identified the Intergovernmental Partnership's Cooperative Audit Resolution and Oversight Initiative guide as an excellent resource to reduce improper payments by determining the underlying cause of audit findings. AGA's ToolKits and guides are available online and are free to use.
Cooperation, and the ability to agree on a shared mission, is fundamental to developing successful shared-service arrangements, according to Dan Murrin, Partner, Ernst & Young (EY). EY sponsored the session on shared services and Murrin moderated the session on improper payments.
Murrin said that governments can be more successful in mitigating improper payments by working together.
"Governments can develop shared systems that help verify eligibility and payment amounts," Murrin said. "There are opportunities to establish regional eligibility systems and to develop 21st-century cooperative arrangements that leverage investments made by governments." Murrin added that the use of shared services provides opportunities to standardize processes and improve governments' ability to work together in preventing improper payments.
Richard Gregg, Treasury's Fiscal Assistant Secretary, issued a challenge to government financial officials while closing the session on shared services, "The benefits of shared services are too large for us to ignore as a government." Gregg further stated, "To realize the cost savings and the better flow of information that can be derived from shared services, the government accountability community must develop the courage to act and make a commitment to change."
According to Van Daniker, AGA will build on information contained in the reports to forge alliances among officials at all levels of government in an effort to improve government performance and increase accountability.