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Improper Federal Payments: Anyone Care?

Obama signed Executive Order 13520 on November 20, 2009 titled ‘Reducing Improper Payments’. Defined in this order is the purpose to examine all parts of the Federal government where improper payments were made, the reasons, the amounts and how to reduce the amounts and risks. Further, the order points to the Office of Management and Budget along with the General Accounting Office to lead the mission. Required upon review is full transparency and reporting for access to members of Congress and the American people. Each agency was/is accountable for self-examination and reporting. There was/is a timeline of dates to meet for the benefit of the U.S. Treasury to take further action to reduce the financial chaos within the Federal government. Each reporting quarter required updated submissions.

If any of the requirements were not met then an Inspector General would be assigned to agencies for failure to comply to determine faults and reasons. From this ongoing effort, policy proposals would be submitted stopping all future improper payment exposures.

All sounds great eh? Except, visiting the respective webpages of the OMB and the GAO, there is no reporting. The only summary published dealt with fraud, not waste or abuse. This summary was published in 2018.

So, upon review, just on the fraud piece of reporting as provided by ‘working groups’, the following was noted:

      Fraud poses a significant risk to the integrity of federal programs and erodes public trust in government. It is a contributor to financial and nonfinancial risks that waste taxpayer dollars, threaten national security, or put consumers at risk. Fraud—which involves obtaining something of value through willful misrepresentation—continues to add to the improper payments made by the government. In fiscal year 2017, agencies government-wide reported $8.8 billion in confirmed fraud, although the deceptive nature of fraud makes it difficult to detect, prevent, and measure in a reliable way. We have previously identified indicators of financial and nonfinancial fraud in a wide range of programs including the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, the Department of Energy’s contractors, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ oversight of Medicare Part D, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ firearm applications. Managers of federal programs have the primary responsibility for reducing these risks and ensuring program integrity. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plays a key role in issuing guidance to assist federal managers with combating government-wide fraud, waste, and abuse.

Allow your imagination to work for a moment and understand this was only the fraud part, for the year 2017 and only a handful of agencies. Is this how Federal agencies comply with a presidential executive order and that includes the Inspector General(s)? Oh, we never do witness real punishment or consequence when it comes to malfeasance or dereliction of duty.

Anyone taking any of this seriously in government? Remember our debt and spending, so how about trying something or anything?

Well at least President Trump is attempting another small part of the matter and that is proposals of rescissions. That means ridiculous amounts of money going offshore to foreign countries for projects that are stupid, do nothing to really add to prosperity and further, there is little or no accountability. President Trump initially informed Congress in a May letter of plans to pull back $15 billion in budgeted but unspent money. Some of the stupidness includes:

     These include U.S. taxpayer funding for: 

  • Crop diversity in Bangladesh.
  • Solar panels in Central Asia.
  • Family planning in West Africa.
  • Desert survival courses in Egypt.
  • Aid to the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in Central America.
  • Diversion programs for felons in El Salvador.
  • Agriculture technology in Guatemala.

As reported by Fred Lucas, in January, Trump criticized Democrats for wanting to add about $12 billion in foreign aid. 

“You see that the Democrats want to give away $12 billion extra, and we’re [already] giving away $54 billion in foreign aid,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. 

So, in summary there are many piece parts missing here for sure but taking small bites and stopping the fleecing of the taxpayer with real solutions could just save us maybe $40-$90 billion a year or more? Yes, but unless that original Obama Executive Order has full compliance under the Trump administration, we are nowhere.

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