Wednesday 3 April 2024

Federal Agencies Made $236 Billion In ‘Improper Payments’ In Fiscal 2023, GAO Finds

 The federal government made nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in “improper payments” in the last fiscal year, a congressional watchdog agency estimated.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report unveiled last week said 14 agencies reported a total of $236 billion in botched payments in fiscal 2023.

Here, “improper payments” were defined as “those that should not have been made or were made in the incorrect amount.”

GAO said agencies reported that $175 billion, or over 74% of the total, were attributed to overpayments.

The total represented an $11 billion decrease from fiscal 2022, but GAO demonstrated in a graphs how “improper payments” have, on average, risen over the past 20 years.

Since fiscal 2003, the cumulative amount has totaled $2.7 trillion. GAO said improper payments have “consistently” been an issue across the government.

The $236 billion figure for fiscal 2023 is just an estimate, GAO cautioned, and it does not include some programs that agencies have determined to be “susceptible” to mismanaged payments.

GAO listed the Health and Human Services Department’s Temporary Assistance for Need Families program as an example.


An analysis found that problematic expenditures were “concentrated” in five program areas, including $51.1 billion for Medicare and $50.3 billion for Medicaid.

There was also $43.6 billion for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, $21.9 billion for Earned Income Tax Credit, and $18.7 billion for Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness.

All other programs from which there was data accounted for $50.1 billion in “improper payments.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) commented on the topline $236 billion estimate for fiscal 2023 by taking a swipe at the Biden administration.

“We need accountability here! This is YOUR money the Biden admin took out of your wallet and wasted,” he said in a post to X.

GAO said it provided a draft of its report to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and comment, but “OMB did not have any comments on the report.”

In fiscal 2022, 14 of 24 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 “complied with applicable improper payment criteria, as reported by their agency inspectors general,” GAO said.

That number marked an increase from 2021, when GAO said inspectors general reported 10 agencies were compliant.

GAO said it has made “numerous” recommendations and suggestions to Congress on ways to reduce payment errors.

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