Solving the improper payments problem at federal agencies

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Linda Miller, director at Grant Thornton Public Sector, discusses ways to reduce improper payments in the federal government, and why reporting laws need to be changed.


According to a recent Government Accountability Office estimate, agencies made about $140 billion worth of improper payments in the 2017 fiscal year. The report is an estimate, because three agencies haven’t been properly informing Congress for the last few years. Linda Miller, director at Grant Thornton Public Sector, says that because of this, the law surrounding improper payments needs to be changed.

 

“My feeling, and this is heresy… I think the problem isn’t that they are not complying. I think the problem is that the law is kind of outdated. If you look at those six criteria, they are really about estimating and reporting the improper payments that the agencies are facing. What we are saying is, ‘We just want you to tell us how many people you paid that you shouldn’t have paid,’” Miller said. “That’s a good number to know… but just looking at GovWin, which is how much agencies are bringing in outside contractors to do this work, the total is about $350 billion. To me… I’m not sure if we’re getting our money’s worth.”