The Obama Administration, dating back to its early days, has placed an emphasis in its management agenda on eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, including issuing multiple Executive Orders as well as signing two laws, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA) and the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 (IPERIA). The Management wing of the Office of Management and Budget, including the Office of Federal Financial Management (where I spent my summer), is tasked with administering these ambitious initiatives.
One of the objectives in IPERA is to scale up the internal controls and audit procedures that agencies use to eliminate, identify and recover improper payments. In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, Medicare recovered over $2 billion in improper payments using private payment recapture audit contractors. These auditors scan payments, searching for instances of fraud, ineligibility or lack of proper documentation. IPERA requires all agencies to conduct audits for their programs that expend $1 million or more annually, with one major caveat. The audits must be cost-effective (moneys recovered > costs of audit).
IPERA requires a study to be conducted on the implementation and cost-effectiveness of this new audit requirement. During this summer, I conducted the study and wrote a report on the study’s findings for the relevant Congressional committees and the GAO. The study is still working its way through the clearance process at OMB, so I can’t discuss the findings. However, I can share the basic study design. The study focused on the 24 largest agencies housed in the Executive Branch. From the Department of Defense to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I looked at agencies of all sizes and missions. The study included a survey, which a 100% participation rate, a focus group of seven agencies, discussions with individual agencies, and analysis of relevant literature.
This project was a rewarding experience for many reasons. First, it gave me a glimpse of and contact with many different federal agencies, which allowed me to learn more about their programs and their unique challenges. Next, it allowed me to apply some of the research, writing, and presentation skills that I learned in my first year at Sanford. Finally, while the report , at minimum, satisfies a statutory requirement, I believe the study and report can be a useful tool in finding solutions that work for all agencies for curbing, identifying and recovering improper payments.
My time at OMB wasn’t all work, however. Here are some pictures of me at the White House Independence Day Party!