In a new report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is highlighting Federal agencies that have reduced their improper payment rates and sharing lessons learned for how other agencies can do the same.

Federal executive agency improper payments – or payments that should not have been made or were made in incorrect amounts – have totaled almost $2.4 trillion since 2003, including $247 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2022.

Agencies have reported reductions in estimated improper payment rates for several programs based on comparisons from FY2017 to FY2022. GAO identified 19 programs across eight agencies with reported reductions – declining from a total of approximately $55.0 billion for FY2017 to $44.5 billion for FY2022.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was one of the biggest savers, responsible for four of the five programs with the largest reported reductions.

The agencies attributed their reductions in improper payments to “program-specific corrective actions as well as broader reduction efforts,” according to GAO.

“These actions and efforts fell into two categories. The first category – establishing accountability and facilitating internal collaboration – included examples such as the VA Veterans Health Administration’s [VHA] establishment of program-level senior accountable officials and a payment integrity team,” the GAO report says.

“The second category – providing technology, tools, and training targeted to root causes – included examples such as Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) launch of the National Verifier system, which uses a combination of automated and manual processes to verify Lifeline program eligibility,” it adds.

The agencies each offered up key takeaways and lessons learned from their reduction efforts. For example, the VA stressed the importance of effective management and designated personnel to provide oversight within both the VA chief financial officer’s (CFO) and VHA CFO’s offices.

The Corporation for National and Community Service noted the importance of “targeted agency-wide actions” and strong communication. The Department of Defense pointed to “training, collaboration, communication, and feedback.”

As for the FCC, it cited the importance of “analyzing root causes on a quarterly basis.” The Small Business Administration described the importance of “regular meetings with program offices to discuss common issues and solutions.”

“These examples underscore the importance of effective corrective actions to address root causes of improper payments,” GAO says.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.