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By Thomas Phippen
Congressional Republicans plan to establish an independent commission charged with reducing one area of government waste, namely, improper payments made by government agencies.
The House Committee on Appropriations suggests establishing an independent commission charged with reducing improper payments by half over the next five years.
Every federal agency makes payments that should not be made, whether they be payments in incorrect amounts (usually overpayments), payments to the wrong individual or entity or payments for the wrong reasons.
The entire federal government loses more than $100 billion each year to improper payments, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in January. The amount of improper payments has also grown during the past few years. The GAO found $144 billion in improper payments in 2016, a marked increase from $107 billion in 2012.
Nearly two-thirds of the $144 billion of improper payments in 2016 occurred in Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to the GAO. About $16.8 billion came in the Earned Income Tax program, and the remaining $31 billion came from other government programs. (RELATED: Government Doesn’t Know How To Stop Wasting $137 Billion On Improper Payments)
“Taking a hard look at federal spending to find and reduce improper payments would save taxpayers $700 billion over the course of 10 years,” read a budget document from Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black, chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. The new commission “would be charged with finding ways to tangibly reduce government-wide improper payments by 50 percent within the next five years.”
While there’s no “silver-bullet solution” to the problem, the commission “should methodically solicit input from experts within government, such as GAO, and the private sector to determine the best ways to tackle this problem,” the budget document added.
Even if the commission finds solutions to the improper payments problem, agencies will have to implement them. Multiple legislative solutions over the past 20 years have failed to make a difference in the problem. Many federal agencies have “failed to comply with the legislation, providing no information about the extent of improper payments and potential solutions,” the document said.