Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin; Gary Peters, D-Michigan; and Mike Braun, R-Indiana, introduced legislation Feb. 7 designed to cut down on government waste and improper payments made by the federal government — including overpayments, underpayments, payments made to ineligible recipients or payments that were not properly documented.

“Government officials have a responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Carper. “That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and root out and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. However, we know that, year after year, the federal government continues to mismanage billions of dollars through improper payments. We can and must do more to better manage government spending — whether it’s providing federal agencies the data they need to prevent improper payments to deceased people or requiring agencies to make more complete estimates of payments. The money saved by these efforts can be put to good use, like funding health care programs or investing in our decades-old infrastructure. With a little hard work and bipartisanship, we can take the common sense steps necessary to reduce improper payments and put these funds to better use for the American people, and that’s exactly what this legislation does.”

In fiscal 2017, the Government Accountability Office estimated that improper payments throughout the federal government totaled more than $141 billion. Since 2003, when agencies were first directed to begin reporting improper payments, cumulative improper payment estimates across government have totaled $1.4 trillion. For fiscal 2017, which is the most recent data available, federal entities estimated about $141 billion in improper payments, an unacceptably high number which has remained relatively constant over the last several fiscal years. The Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019 would modify and restructure existing improper payments laws to help agencies better identify and reduce the amount of money wasted due to improper government payments.

The bill would:

— Require agencies to undertake additional efforts and develop plans to prevent improper payments before they happen.

— Improve the way agencies identify programs with the highest risk of improper payments.

— Require the Office of Management and Budget and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to issue guidance to improve annual reporting on agencies’ compliance with improper payments statutes.

— Create a working group that will enable federal agencies to collaborate with each other and nonfederal partners, such as state governments, to develop strategies for addressing key drivers of improper payments, such as fraud and eligibility determinations in state-managed federal benefits programs.

The legislation is available at bit.ly/2BlOyZ9.