Federal Manager's Daily Report

Of the estimated total, $121 billion was attributable to only three programs — the earned income tax credit, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that millions of eligible Americans rely on. Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock.com

Nine years after enactment of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, agencies still are not in full compliance and the government-wide estimate of such payments increased from $151 billion to $175 billion over 2018-2019, GAO has said.

GAO compiled findings of agency IGs which are required under that law to report on compliance with IPERA criteria such as conducting risk assessments and publishing and meeting improper payment reduction targets.

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The focus is on the 24 CFO Act agencies—Cabinet departments and the largest independent agencies—that together account for nearly all of the reported improper payments.

Agencies were most frequently reported as noncompliant with the requirement to publish and meet annual targets for improper payment reduction, while the second most-frequently reported area related to the requirement for agencies’ reported improper payment rates to be below 10 percent for programs that published estimates.

Of the estimated total, $121 billion was attributable to only three programs—Medicaid, Medicare, and the earned income tax credit—while about $75 billion was reported as monetary loss, an amount that should not have been paid and in theory should or could be recovered. Underpayments and payments that are not properly documented also count as improper, under the law’s definition.

GAO added that the government’s “ability to understand the full scope of its improper payments is hindered by incomplete, unreliable, or understated agency estimates; risk assessments that may not accurately assess the risk of improper payment; and agencies not complying with reporting and other requirements” of the law.