Feb 20 2016
A number of years ago, a Delawarean said to me, “I don’t mind paying taxes, I just don’t want the government to waste my money.”
This comment has stuck with me over the years and continues to remind me how important it is to ensure that the federal government is a good steward of taxpayer dollars. For all the critical services government provides, I believe Congress has an obligation to root out waste, fraud, and abuse, and always look for ways to do more with less.
Just one of the ways I’ve worked with my colleagues in Congress to save taxpayer dollars is by cracking down on improper payments. Improper payments are payments made by federal agencies that should not have been made. They are often caused by an unintentional error but can sometimes be traced to fraud. This kind of waste puts an added strain on our already stretched-thin federal budget. Last fiscal year alone, avoidable improper payments cost American taxpayers an estimated $125 billion.
In 2010, the President signed into law a bipartisan bill I authored, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act – also known as IPERA. This law requires agencies to identify, prevent, and recover improper payments. In both 2012 and most recently in 2015, Congress passed additional laws I wrote to further strengthen IPERA, and force agencies to double-check payments before they are made. These pieces of legislation also made it easier for state governments to work with the Treasury Department to detect and prevent wasteful spending in some of their programs, such as Medicaid and Unemployment Insurance.
Building on our past efforts, in December 2015, Congress approved a bipartisan bill that I introduced called the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures - or the PRIME Act. Instead of losing millions of dollars to improper payments in these programs each year, the PRIME Act requires contractors to be more careful with taxpayer dollars, cracks down on criminals buying and selling patient information, and helps the state-run Medicaid program and federal Medicare program coordinate their fraud prevention activities.
While we have these and numerous other achievements in our efforts to eliminate waste and fraud in our government, we are far from finished. For one, I continue to work on the frustrating issue of federal agencies making payments to people who are deceased.
I often think of how the Preamble to the Constitution speaks of ‘a more perfect union.’ Although our political system may not be perfect, we should strive for perfection in everything we do, because everything we do we know we can do better. Clearly, there is much more work to be done. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike – to look for ways to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse across the federal government.
As always, I invite you to reach out to me on this or other issues through email, or by contacting me on Twitter @SenatorCarper and on Facebook at facebook.com/tomcarper.