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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OMB to Alter Guidance for Reducing Improper Payments

Inspectors general are the “best friends” of program managers and the White House budget office when it comes to catching fraud and reducing agency improper payments, the deputy U.S. controller said on Wednesday.
Mark Reger, now in his third month as the No. 2 at the Office of Federal Financial Management, said his team is reworking  Circular A-123 guidance on controlling for financial integrity “to make it less prescriptive and to rely on the people on the ground,” particularly inspectors general.
Reger, a former Maryland State Treasury official, noted that the rate of bad payments has dropped steadily over the past four years, thanks in part to Congress’s enactment of the 2012 Credit Card Fraud Prevention Act and the 2012 Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. “The most important tool is the education of agency enforcers in the field,” he said, praising the watchdogs for gathering better data, working together and sharing information. “I don’t know a single inspector general who isn’t thrilled to find additional money.”

The increasing use of data analytics has allowed progress in such areas as federal employee misuse of credit orthat it’s not okay to steal from federal government, it’s not sexy,” Reger said. purchasing cards, the deputy controller said. “The data is now generated back to the agencies every day,” he said. “Employees found to have committed fraud have had their cards cancelled, or been fired, or disciplined in some fashion.”
Coming changes to the financial controls circular will include requiring fewer reports and more-detailed categories of fraud, or “bucketing,” to distinguish, for example, between an unmerited payment and a claim lacking proper documentation, he said.
Reger urged IGs, program managers and vendors to report fraud to the Government Accountability Office’s fraud line at fraudnet@gao.net, and to peruse their own Medicare bills in search of bad charges.  “Please reinforce that it’s not okay to steal from federal government, it’s not sexy,” Reger said.
- Charles S. Clark, GovExec.com

DHS faces stiff acquisition, IT management challenges, IG says

The Department of Homeland Security is facing major challenges ensuring employee accountability, streamlining acquisitions and managing its IT projects, according to an annual report released Nov. 18 by the DHS inspector general.

The IG received over 29,000 complaints against DHS employees and opened more than 1,000 investigations — achieving 300 convictions and affecting 100 personnel action. DHS must quickly recognize poor performers and illegal acts and move to stop them, the IG said.

The agency also struggles with delivering its acquisitions on time and on budget with the right capabilities, according to the report. While DHS has made some efforts to better manage its acquisitions it needs to continually improve and assess its efforts, the IG said.

DHS should also work on other management issues, including:

  • Financial management: While the agency was able to obtain a clean financial audit for the second year in a row, it required considerable manual effort by the agency to overcome flaws in its financial IT systems, according to the IG. The agency needs to strengthen its financial management programs to eliminate these issues and make it easier to produce a clean audit.

  • Grants management: Most of the challenges in grant management rest with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which did not properly spend and document about 23 percent of disaster-assistance grants.

  • Operations integration: The IG identified projects and programs shared between agencies that had weak levels of oversight, and that the agency does not have adequate systems to centrally track some of these shared programs. DHS spent more than $35.3 million on a fleet of cars shared between components that were underused, the IG said.

DHS agreed with many of the IG findings and said that many of the issues are being addressed by the agency-wide effort to coordinate and combine a diverse set of legacy agencies into one cohesive unit. The “Unity of Effort” initiative is building important bridges in DHS’ planning, programming and budgeting processes, according to Jim Crumpacker, the director of the departmental IG liaison office.

-Andy Medici, FederalTimes.com