IG: DHS must improve recovering improper payments

Friday - 3/23/2012, 2:16pm EDT

The Homeland Security Department is complying with federal improper payments legislation, but the department can do more to recover improper payments, according to a report from the DHS' Inspector General's office.

Specifically, only one DHS component — the U.S. Coast Guard — prioritized its audits to target categories with higher potential for overpayments, according to the report.

In July 2010, President Obama signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, which expanded requirements for agencies to identify, estimate and report on programs that might be susceptible to improper payments.

In fiscal 2011, the federal government on a whole made $125 billion in improper payments, the IG report said.

The IG found DHS reported $210 million in improper payments from 14 programs across six components. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the highest percentage of improper payments at more than 8 percent.

DHS component Total payments (millions) Estimated improper payments (millions) Improper payment rate
Customs and Border Protection $1,449 $3 0.21%
FEMA $3,720 $68 1.83%
Immigration and Customs Enforcement $1,332 $108 8.12%
National Protection and Programs Directorate $811 $27 3.27%
Transportation Security Administration* $2,458 $0 0.01%
Coast Guard $2,918 $4 0.13%
DHS-wide $12,688 $210 1.66%
Data from DHS IG report.
*DHS did not perform recovery audits for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the U.S. Secret Service and TSA.

In the current fiscal environment, it is "imperative" DHS uses its budget more effectively, said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement.

"If the department can recoup disaster assistance overpayments from individuals in the Gulf region, then it certainly can find a way to recover funds improperly paid to vendors and contractors. Duplicate payments are the kind of waste that we can control, address and remedy. I will continue to press the department on this issue," Thompson said.

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