James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

$100 billion in improper federal payments. Now the good news...

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: July 9, 2014 - 11:33 AM

The federal government paid out $100 billion in 2013 in medical reimbursements, tax refunds, unemployment benefits and other payments considered "improper," the Associated Press reported. That awesome number is actually an improvement since 2010, when the tally of improper payments peaked at $121 billion. The error rate (the percentage of spending that's improper) has also dropped from 5.42 percent in 2009 to 3.53 percent last year.

The federal bean-counters, on their euphemistically-named PaymentAccuracy.gov web site, also note that improper payments are not the equivalent of waste or fraud, since many of these payments merely lacked documentation or had inaccurate coding, or may actually be less than they're supposed to be. Still, the scale of everything when it comes to federal spending makes for some eye-opening numbers. The biggest offenders (dubbed "high-error programs") include giants like Medicare fee-for-service, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid. 

So what's being done about these improper payments? There's a new law with a "Do Not Pay" checklist for federal agencies (similar to doctors writing on the limbs of patients, "Do not amputate this one"). And the federal government wants the public to help them mind their billions: you can report waste, fraud and abuse, or, if you have a brainstorm about how to make the federal government work better, and thereby waste fewer of those billions, you can tell them here

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT