Federal Agencies Paid $236 Billion ‘Improper Payments’ Last Year

During the 2023 fiscal year, the federal government spent billions of dollars on “improper payments,” according to a new report from a watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed in a report released on March 26 that failed payments last year were estimated to equal $236 billion, submitted by 14 different agencies within the federal government.

The report defined “improper payments” as transactions which “should not have been made or were made in the incorrect amount.” According to the GAO, government agencies reported $175 billion were given in overpayments, amounting to more than 74% of the total “improper” funds distributed last year.

The total lost funds in fiscal year 2023 is down $11 billion from faulty payments made the year before. However, the GAO also noted in its report that “improper payments” from the federal government have increased on average throughout the past two decades.

In the years since 2003, the total amount of these payments has come out to $2.7 trillion. The watchdog agency described this as “consistently” being a problem for the government. It also warned that the $236 billion for last year is an estimate rather than an exact amount and stated that certain government programs deemed “susceptible” to making such payments are excluded from the report.

Programs for which data was compiled amounted to $50.1 billion of the estimated “improper payments” in fiscal year 2023. The GAO has reportedly submitted its findings to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review.

According to the watchdog group, 14 out of 24 agencies funded by the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act “complied with applicable improper payment criteria” in the 2022 fiscal year. This data was based on reports from inspectors general of various agencies.

This contrasts the reality that only 10 agencies were compliant with the criteria in 2021, according to agency inspectors general.

Per the 2023 estimated findings, the GAO has shared it provided Congress with “numerous” suggestions to address the ongoing and prevalent issue of “improper payments.”

The report comes just under one year after the fiscal year 2022 report was released, in which the GAO estimated that $247 billion were lost to “improper payments.”