Administration Unveils New Fraud-Fighting Measures

This is presumably not what the 'do not pay' list will look like

Writing in his Federal Eye blog over at the Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe put up an interesting piece this morning about the Obama administration creating a government "do not pay" list to help prevent certain improper payments, and ordering the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to begin using a Recovery Act fraud-fighting tool.

Federal agencies will have to begin contributing to a national "do not pay" list of people and organizations that are ineligible to receive government benefits, contracts, grants, and loans:

A memo Obama is set to sign Friday instructs the Treasury Department, Office of Management and Budget [OMB] and General Services Administration [GSA] to establish a government-wide database to ensure agencies no longer send government checks to dead people, delinquent or jailed contractors and other debarred or suspended firms.

The problem of improper payments in general plagues the government. According to OMB, the government has sent about 20,000 payments totaling $182 million to dead people in the last three years alone.

Government employees can check several databases prior to sending a payment. These include the Social Security Administration's Death Master File, GSA's Excluded Parties List System, the Treasury Department's Debt Check Database, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Credit Alert System or Credit Alert Interactive Voice Response System, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General's List of Excluded Individuals/Entities.

According to the memorandum the president signed today, OMB will continue to consolidate those databases under the administration's new master performance database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), and release new guidance on payee assessment through the updated system.

O'Keefe noted in the same piece that the administration would also announce plans today that CMS will begin using an "online fraud-detection program developed by federal watchdogs who are tracking the economic stimulus program."

The group he is referring to is the Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board, and the program is a regression-based analysis that members use to find fraud before it even happens.

A recent Bloomberg News article described the board's Recovery Operations Center thusly:

The aim is to catch fraud before it happens. Digitized maps are projected onto screens to analyze data from neighborhoods receiving federal spending. It's Doppler radar for scams: One map aggregates contract spending and crime levels, while another focuses on foreclosure rates or reported Medicare fraud. The data guide [Special Inspector General Earl] Devaney's team about what projects might deserve scrutiny.

I remember reading a short article about the RAT Board's oversight operation last year and wondering afterward when such a great fraud-detection system would start finding its way into other parts of the government. It looks like that time has finally come.

Image by Flickr user KTVee used under a Creative Commons license.

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