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Zients Says Gov’t Working to Stop Payments to Deceased

Jeffrey Zients, Photo: omb.gov

In the wake of revelations that the federal government had mistakenly or improperly paid almost $1 billion to deceased people over 10 years, Director Deputy of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients took to the blogosphere to detail new methods to curb improper payments.

“Whether the budget is in surplus or in deficit, we cannot tolerate the wasting of taxpayer dollars – and there are few more egregious examples of waste than improper payments,” Zients wrote on the official OMB blog, before launching into a list of reforms the government had undertaken.

For example, President Barack Obama issued an executive order in November 2009, which described a strategy to reduce improper payments by making agencies more accountable and transparent.

The order also mandated a public website to track progress on reducing improper payments: paymentaccuracy.gov.

The president also laid plans for “payment recapture audits” within agencies, which reduce bad payments as well as changes to the Medicare Fee for Service program.

Most recently, the president signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act into law, which the administration hopes will strengthen existing efforts to reduce improper payments.

The hullabaloo over payments to dead people began when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report titled “Federal Programs to Die For: American Tax Dollars Sent Six Feet Under,” on Friday Oct. 29.

Just in time for Halloween, The Washington Post noted, the report found the government had spent some $1 billion on payments to the deceased since 2000.

“Nothing represents the stupidity of wasteful Washington spending more than directing a billion taxpayer dollars to the deceased,” Coburn said Thursday, according to The Post. “This practice is disgraceful and, in many cases, robs the living of promised benefits.”

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