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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why agencies break the law on improper payments

Despite an attempted crackdown by the Obama administration, agencies are increasingly likely to make payment mistakes. The error rate rose from 3.53 percent in fiscal 2013 to 4.02 percent in fiscal 2014. In other words, the government misspent about $10 billion more last year than the year earlier.

That we knew, thanks to a Government Accountability Office report issued a few months back. But recent inspector general reports round out the picture by showing where agencies go wrong.

Of the 24 CFO Act agencies — those required to have audited financial statements —about half failed to comply with the law on improper payments, according to a preliminary analysis of the IG reports by the accounting firm Grant Thornton. The low scorers include the agencies that misspent the most money: the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, Agriculture and the Social Security Administration.

The overall picture seems, at first glance, worse than in past years, when inspectors general evaluated agencies on a multilevel scale that ranged from "compliant" to "noncompliant." While agencies have made strides in some of their programs, complying with the improper payments law is now pass-fail, thanks to guidance the White House issued in October.

"They're trying to say, ‘No more wiggle room. You're either compliant or not compliant,'" said Grant Thornton Principal Robert Shea.

-Emily Kopp, FederalNewsRadio.com
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