Carper’s Connection – Curbing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, October 2011

Dear Fellow Delawarean,

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction deliberates ways to shrink our debt through spending cuts and revenue increases, it’s also important that we answer the question, “How can we get better results for less money in federal programs?” On the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management which I chair, we try to look in every nook and cranny of the federal government for ways to save taxpayer money by targeting wasteful spending and fraudulent or abusive activity.

Over the past few months, our subcommittee has examined troubling activity by predatory colleges in relation to G.I. Bill spending; released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that highlighted alarming connections between Medicare Part D and prescription drug abuse; focused on improving the poor financial accountability at the Department of Defense (DOD), exemplified in a recent report highlighting millions of dollars overcharged to DOD for spare helicopter parts; and reviewed underutilized federal property leases, which can cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

Ultimately, solving our nation’s fiscal challenges will require the federal government to transition from what I call a “culture of spendthrift” to a “culture of thrift.” In nearly every federal program we administer, we can be better stewards of taxpayer money. I will continue working to build bipartisan consensus on how we can strengthen these programs by spending scarce tax dollars more wisely and delivering a better level of service to the American people.

Strengthening Medicare & Medicaid with the FAST Act

In June, I introduced the Medicare and Medicaid Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayer Dollars Act – also known as “the FAST Act” – with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). The FAST Act puts important tools in place to help us reduce waste and fraud in these two vital programs on which millions of Americans depend. This not only will help secure these programs for the future but also will help us achieve our long-term deficit reduction goals. It’s truly a win-win.

We cannot wait to implement this important legislation. I’ve written to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – or “Supercommittee” – to encourage them to include the FAST Act in their proposal. I hope my colleagues will support this bipartisan effort to curb wasteful spending in our nation’s vital health programs.

Read more about the FAST Act here.

Enhancing Current Law to Curb Improper Payments

Improper payments – which are payments made in error, like ones to the wrong person or in the wrong amount – cause billions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted each year. In July, I introduced the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2011 on the first anniversary of President Obama signing the landmark Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA) into law. This piece of legislation builds on IPERA’s initiatives and would establish new requirements for federal agencies to identify, prevent and recover improper payments.

Reducing Taxpayer Burdens and Improving Efficiency in Tax Collection

In June, I introduced a strong taxpayer advocacy bill – the Taxpayer Advocacy and Government Accountability Promotion (TAX GAP) Act – to reduce federal budget deficits and compliance burdens for taxpayers while cracking down on delinquent taxpayers. The “tax gap” – the difference between what taxpayers owe and what they actually pay – costs the U.S. billions of dollars annually, and most of the tax gap is caused by taxpayers who deliberately or accidentally underreport their taxable income. This bill would eliminate that gap by strengthening current tax collection processes and making it easier for families and businesses to pay their taxes.

Cracking Down on Over-Budget, Inefficient Information Technology Projects

Last year, then Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said that fixing the broken management of our federal government’s information technology (IT) was the “single-most important step we can take in creating a more efficient and productive government.” I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, the failures of IT management on the federal level have, in some cases, been spectacular. For example, the GAO found in January of this year that those running the National Archives’ Electronic Records investment had not been able to identify potential cost and schedule problems early and, as a result, failed to take any actions to address them. The GAO estimates that, because of these failures in one troubled project, taxpayers will lose between $205 and $405 million. That’s unacceptable, especially as we struggle with record federal debt. In April, I introduced the Information Technology Investment Management Act of 2011, which seeks to better monitor the federal government’s $80 billion information technology (IT) portfolio and requires troubled projects be fixed or terminated.

Saving Taxpayers’ Money by Reducing Government Energy Use

In May, I introduced legislation to save taxpayer money by reducing federal agencies’ energy use – the Reducing Federal Energy Dollars (R-FED) Act. R-FED would implement a comprehensive package of proposals to strengthen federal energy management efforts by encouraging and supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy use in federal facilities. This bill would not only help agencies save money but also allow the federal government to lead by example by becoming more environmentally sustainable and less reliant on foreign sources of energy.

Read more about my efforts to improve the management of taxpayer dollars in federal programs here.

With warm personal regards,

I am,

TC Signature

U.S. Senator Tom Carper