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Our government in action! In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, the controller general revealed that the federal government improperly paid out $144 billion in 2016.
The problem is growing, he said, from $125 billion in 2014; to $137 billion in 2015; to the most recent estimate of $144 billion in 2016. “This includes estimates for 112 programs at 22 federal agencies, so it is a pervasive problem,” he added.
Since 2003 – when Congress required many executive departments and agencies to estimate the amount of improper payments annually – the cumulative total is estimated to be “in excess of $1.2 trillion,” Dodaro said. “So it’s a significant amount of money.” Dodaro said three big federal programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit — account for most (75 percent) of the improper payments. “But there are a number of programs across government where this problem is an issue,” he said.
And the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, because 18 “risk-susceptible” programs – including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — do not report estimates at all. SNAP (food stamps) stopped reporting in 2015. And the $144 billion in 2016 does not include estimates from the Defense Department, which could be a sizeable number, Dodaro said.
Obviously, the solution is to hire more auditors and increase the budgets at these agencies so they can better track the improper payments. Simply cutting these budgets, well now, that’s a terrible idea.