Some agencies struggle to recover improper payments

High average masks some individual failures

Federal agencies recovered 81 percent of their improper payments to contractors on average from fiscal 2004 to 2010, according to a federal dashboard cited at a congressional hearing today. However, the reasonably high average masks some poor performers.

The Health and Human Services Departmentwas the worst of the 21 agencies evaluated, with a 4-percent recovery rate. The agencies were listed as making such recaptures at PaymentAccuracy.gov. HHS recovered $60,000 from a total of $1.6 million in estimated improper payments to contractors during the period.

Daniel Werfel, controller at the Office of Management and Budget, and Kay Daly, director of financial management and assurance at the Government Accountability Office, gave an update on federal efforts to reduce and recover improper payments in testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management Subcommittee.

An improper payment is a federal payment made in error to a wrong or ineligible party, for the wrong amount, or for the wrong reasons or without proper documentation, which includes fraudulent payments.

The Transportation Department recovered 31 percent of its improper payments to contractors, for a total of $6 million. The Education Department, which recovered 43 percent of its incorrect payments to contractors, recouping $130,000 out of $300,000.

Other agencies with relatively low recovery rates included the General Services Administration, 67 percent; Homeland Security Department, 68 percent; and Defense Department, 75 percent.

Agencies with a 100 percent recovery rate for improper contractor payments were the Commerce Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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