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11/17/2010
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Government Launches Site To Reduce Payment Fraud, Errors

In announcing VerifyPayment,gov, the Office of Management and Budget reported it recovered about $687 million in improper disbursements last year.

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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is turning to the web to help build on momentum to stop improper payments from costing the federal government unnecessary cash.

The OMB said this week it's teaming with the Department of Veterans Affairs to pilot a new website, VerifyPayment.gov, which will act as a centralized database for information about those ineligible for payments from the federal government, according to a blog post by OMB director Jeffrey Zients.

The website will allow authorized employees to review available databases to confirm a payment recipient's eligibility before releasing federal funds, with the goal of reducing improper payments. The site replaces a "Do Not Pay" list the government was maintaining and eventually access will be extended to other government agencies.

The site was launched in a transparency and accountability move, and "because ultimately, it's your money at stake," said Zients.

The website posts information about improper payments agencies are making, such as the amount per agency and a list of programs with the highest number of errors resulting in improper payments.

The site defines improper payments as occurring "when funds go to the wrong recipient, the recipient receives the incorrect amount of funds (including overpayments and underpayments), documentation is not available to support a payment, or the recipient uses funds in an improper manner."

The Department of Health and Human Services was the biggest offender of improper payments in fiscal year 2009, with $71.4 billion misappropriated by that department, according to the site. This fact is not surprising, given that two Medicare programs -- Medicare Fee For Service and Medicare Advantage -- and the Medicaid program are listed on the site as three of the top four high-error programs.

Overall, the federal government made about $125 billion in improper payments in 2010, an increase of $15 billion from the previous year.

As a way to eliminate federal waste, fraud, and abuse, President Obama issued a directive in March for agencies to recapture money they've improperly paid out and to prevent such payouts from happening in the future.

In his blog post, Zients reported success in recapturing improper payments in fiscal year 2010, which ended Sept. 30. Federal agencies recovered about $687 million, with $611 million discovered through agency payment-recapture audits, he said. The number represents a significant increase from previous years, and is the highest reported amount in the six previous years of agency reporting, Zients added.

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