$125 billion in improper payments made last year

November 18, 2010

Today, The Washington Post reported on the federal government’s improper-payment record for fiscal year 2010. Regrettably, your government managed to send “oops” payments – checks doled out to incorrect beneficiaries, such as deceased and incarcerated persons  – totaling about $125 billion.

The federal government’s improper payments totaled about $125 billion in fiscal 2010 as unemployment insurance and Medicaid payments increased, officials said Tuesday.

The payments included about 89,000 checks for $250 each sent to dead or incarcerated people as part of the economic stimulus program.

“This is an unfortunate result of the recession and of basic math: the more that is paid out, the more paid out in error even if the overall rate declines,” OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients wrote Tuesday on his blog.


President Obama wants agencies to recoup at least $2 billion in improper payments by the end of fiscal 2012. In order to do so, he ordered the establishment of a government-wide “do not pay” database to stop payments made to dead or incarcerated people and debarred or suspended contracting firms.

We applaud the President’s effort. Though $2 billion is just a fraction of the total amount, it’s important that Washington consistently takes the position that no cut is too small.

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