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As hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted, new bill would combat fraud

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A new legislative effort boasts that it can help rein in wasteful federal spending.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, introduced the Government Spending Oversight Committee Act to empower federal watchdogs to better combat fraud and work with agencies to prevent it from happening.

The legislation comes as a steady stream of reports from federal watchdogs have reported trillions of dollars in waste in recent decades, often lost to fraudsters.

“Congress has a duty to be a responsible steward of the hard-earned taxpayer dollars used to provide support to American families and businesses through federal programs,” Raskin said in a statement. “This new legislation will codify existing anti-fraud data capabilities in the federal government, build oversight tools that help agencies prioritize fraud reduction, and ensure federal programs support those who need and qualify for them.”

Raskin’s office pointed to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a committee that had some success at finding COVID fraud. The new bill would create a similar effort, empowering federal Inspector Generals to help prevent taxpayer losses.

“To date, the PRAC has helped to uncover an estimated $1.95 billion in fraud loss, a significant return on investment,” Raskin’s office said. “Under current law, the PRAC will terminate on September 30, 2025, eliminating a key tool for IGs to uncover fraud in federal government spending.”

So far the bill has no cosponsors, but a similar companion bill in the Senate has bipartisan support. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah introduced the bill in March, and it passed out of committee in April.

That bill makes the same provisions clear, namely creating a “successor” to PRAC to continue the effort to combat federal waste.

“It’s our duty to ensure government is working efficiently and effectively for the American people,” Peters said in a statement. “One of the simplest ways to do that is to ensure taxpayer money is going to good use. My new bipartisan bill will provide critical tools to identify and prevent fraud in federal government spending.”

Current PRAC Chair Michael Horowitz called GSOCA a good government initiative that will improve the integrity of federal programs, and protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Federal waste has been a major problem for decades as the national debt nears $35 trillion.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability hosted a hearing called “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” last year where experts testified to the widespread waste associated with the “rushed” pandemic-era spending.

Hundreds of billions of dollars were lost to waste, fraud and abuse.

“The government has an underlying improper payment problem…” Gene Dodaro, the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s comptroller general, said at the hearing. “When you have that type of problem that we’re not dealing with on a regular basis, and you add additional spending, hundreds of billions or in this case trillions of dollars, you’re going to have these types of problems in place.”

But waste is not exclusive to pandemic spending. As The Center Square previously reported, the federal government reported $236 billion in improper payments in fiscal year 2023. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the total figure is almost certainly much larger, but federal reporting is lacking.

“GAO has found that these payments represent a material deficiency or weakness in internal controls,” GAO said. “Specifically, GAO has noted that the federal government is unable to determine the full extent of its improper payments or to reasonably assure that appropriate actions are taken to reduce them.”

The improper payments in question occur when the relevant agency sent funds to the wrong individual or overpaid. Medicaid and Medicare are among the worse in this area, as The Center Square previously reported, but the issue is rampant throughout federal agencies.

“Since fiscal year 2003, federal agencies reported about $2.7 trillion in total improper payments,” GAO said. “In FY 2023 alone, federal agencies made $236 billion in improper payments, a decrease of about $11 billion from the prior fiscal year.”

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