How agencies are stopping fraud with technology

Agencies share experiences of using technology in the fight against waste and abuse.

Editor's note: This story was modified after its original publication to correct a reference to the Health and Human Services department's Office of Inspector General.

Good news rarely makes the headlines, especially when it involves the federal government. Typically, the more salacious the incident, the more coverage it gets. But at today’s FedInsider's breakfast briefing at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC, government officials got the opportunity to share some of their success stories in preventing waste, fraud and abuse and discuss how technology helped wage a war on improper payments.

The “Unmasking Fraud, Waste, and Abuse: Tools, Techniques and Technology” event brought together officials from the Social Security Administration, the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Inspector General and the Agriculture Department as well as two industry experts to discuss what agencies are doing to meet President Obama’s goals to reduce improper payments by $50 billion by the end of 2012. Here are some highlights that touch on what agencies are doing to fight fraud.

Data analysis: HHS OIG’s Office of Audit Services is using data analysis and data mining to sort through large volumes of data to identify fraud and waste. Geographical maps are also used to examine outliers and unusual patterns among beneficiaries’ claims. For example, a high number of Medicaid and Medicare claims in Florida typically won’t raise suspicions because many senior citizens retire there. But a high number of claims in an area like Utah could cause concern and prompt further investigation, said Gloria Jarmon, deputy inspector general for the Office of Audit Services within the HHS OIG.

Continuous monitoring:  Continuous Transaction Monitoring is just one type of smart technology that has proven successful in preventing improper payments and other incidents of fraud and waste, said Aubrey Vaughan, managing director of the public sector at Oversight Systems. Technology such as CTM makes it possible to “monitor 100 percent of your universe, 100 percent of your transactions, and allows your employees or your accountants to get back to doing their job,” he said. Many fear that implementing new technology and seeing results just takes too long. But Vaughan said seeing results could take as a little as four months and save billions of tax dollars. For example, the Defense Department’s Business Activity Monitoring project saved the government more than $1 billion in the first 15 months of use. 

Data matching: Because of the vast amount of data within the federal government, “data matching is extremely important,” said Jessica Shahin, associate administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at USDA. The system allows in-state or out-of-state agencies to access each other’s databases, making it easier to detect and prevent duplicate participation of the SNAP. USDA also has a nationwide database, the Electronic Disqualified Recipient System, into which states are required to enter data about disqualified SNAP recipients. States also must check the database to ensure recipients aren’t in the system to receive benefits erroneously. 

 

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