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Obama signs improper payments law

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 11:42 a.m. ET
With financial regulatory reform in the bag, President Obama turned to government spending reform on Thursday, signing a bill that requires federal agencies and departments to crack down on improper payments.

The government misspent almost $110 billion in fiscal year 2009 by sending benefits checks sent to dead people, doling out fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid payments and overpaying government contractors.

But the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act that Obama signed requires agencies to spend at least $1 million on audits to identify potential overpayments, produce plans to cut such overpayment errors and sets penalties for agencies that fail to comply.

"It means cutting down on waste, fraud and abuse and ensuring that our government serves as a responsible steward of the tax dollars of the American people," Obama said before signing the bill.

Today's bill signing, combined with Wednesday's signing of a massive financial regulatory reform measure, allows Obama to demonstrate he's putting the government's fiscal house in order while forcing Wall Street to do the same.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) moved relatively swiftly through Congress and passed unanimously in both chambers.

It's a convenient legislative companion to the Obama administration's efforts to rein in excessive spending and bloated government operations through a series of executive orders and memos that established a "do not pay" list for fraudulent contractors, forced agencies to cut back on building costs and required improvements to the federal hiring process.

"Over the last year or so, we have had both feet on the accelerator in an effort to spur economic growth and job creation," Carper said about the bill. "Now it is the time to take one foot off as our economic recovery begins to take hold and put one foot on the brake to help slow the growth in federal spending. Fortunately, there is still some low-hanging fruit out there, wasteful federal spending."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: As telework legislation continues moving toward becoming law -- it passed in the House last week, after previously passing in the Senate -- do you expect that you will work from home more often or no? E-mail your answer to federaleye@washingtonpost.com, and include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday’s Washington Post.

SAVE Award submissions due: Federal workers must submit their cost-cutting and operational efficiency ideas by the end of today to SaveAward.gov. The rank and file can submit ideas and vote on the others and the eventual winner meets with President Obama.

'Don't ask, don't tell' closing arguments today: A federal judge in California is scheduled to hear closing arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the military's gay ban. The suit was filed by the Log Cabin Republicans. Read more about their efforts here.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama's gifts to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Hanoi, pushes Vietnam on civil rights. Ben Bernanke says the Fed is ready to step in again if the economy falters. The U.S. envoy to Sudan says a Bashir indictment makes his job harder. Gen. David Petraeus sharpens the Afghanistan war strategy. Retired CIA official returns to run the clandestine service. Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg expected to issue a potentially embarrassing report detailing large sums paid out by financial firms.

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT:
Fired USDA official receives apologies from White House, Vilsack: Shirley Sherrod on Wednesday achieved something almost unheard of in overheated Washington: swift and utter vindication.

Despite adversity, Shirley Sherrod has history of civil service: She was a 17-year-old high school senior when a white man shot her father, Hosie Miller, in the back. A grand jury refused to bring murder charges.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Careless Census workers may lose Web privileges: A new policy allows managers to revoke Internet access for employees that repeatedly fail to follow security measures.

FDA:
FDA issues hold on much-debated Avandia study: The agency said it issued a "partial clinical hold" on the study to update researchers on the latest concerns about Avandia, which has been under scrutiny since 2007.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Getting compensation shouldn't be so hard for federal workers hurt on the job: Working for the federal government should not be hazardous to employees' health.

Supervisor training bill clears House subcommittee: It would would establish a program to educate supervisors on a range of managerial issues, including developing and discussing goals with employees.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT:
Three of every four oil and gas lobbyists worked for federal government: It's a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill.

Workers on doomed rig voiced concern about safety: They did so in a confidential survey in the weeks before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Justice Dept. won't file charges in Bush-era firings of U.S. attorneys: The decision closes the books on one of the lingering political disputes from the Bush era, one that Democrats said was evidence of GOP politics run amok.

Graduate of Va.'s Oakton High charged with trying to join terrorist group: Zachary Adam Chesser was barred July 10 from leaving New York City for Uganda on a multi-leg journey to join al-Shabab, an Islamist insurgency that wants to topple Somalia's weak central government

Two federal lawsuits target Nebraska town's ordinance on illegal immigrants: They seek to overturn a controversial ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting homes or taking jobs.

Open government plan 1.1: Read about DOJ's new transparency plans.

NASA:
Senate panel approves NASA spending with extra shuttle flight: The space shuttle will fly one extra flight and the agency will embark sooner on developing its next heavy-lift rocket, under a key Senate panel's vote Wednesday.

SEC:
As financial reform becomes law, SEC emerges with new powers and duties: The agency is required to issue 95 new regulations governing a wide swath of the financial sector, dozens more than the Federal Reserve, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or other federal agencies.

SEC proposes to tighten rules on 12b-1 mutual fund fees: Are mutual funds overcharging investors?

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 22, 2010; 6:15 AM ET
Categories:  Contracting, Eye Opener  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Shirley Sherrod receives apologies from White House, Vilsack
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Comments

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Posted by: briansusan | July 22, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

As a car guy, I can tell you the best way to waste gas is to put one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator. Horrible analogy.

I'm not sure how spending money on audits to find out how you wasted the money will help. Seems to me the smarter way to watch for fraudulent payments is to copy credit card companies. They use sophisticated computer programs to flag potential fraudulent charges and stop them before they go through.

While I don't expect the federal gov't to be that sophisticated, they could at least do some simple tests like seeing if the account they are sending the money to matches the name of the person getting the benefit.

Posted by: will4567 | July 22, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

If you have to pass a law to tell government employees not to pay Dead People, this is a sign something's wrong.
Government is Too Big, Obama! And you're trying to Expand it!

Posted by: ohioan | July 22, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

With the election of Obama, the American electorate signaled its intention to retreat from greatness; and, to initiate a descent into the financial abyss of Socialism. However, it would be prudent to cushion our landing at the bottom of the pit by curtailing Obama's redistribution technique of providing "a home in every pot". The recently passed "faux" financial reform is simply another Obama fraud perpetrated on the American people.
Unless we own up to the historically documented cause factors of this self-constructed economic crisis that proliferated these toxic assets throughout our financial industry, we may well be doomed by current Obama policies which: seeks to forgive the principal on defaulting mortgages; continues to pressure lending institutions to continue issuing suspect loans to low-income recipients; and, blatantly excludes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from financial regulatory reform, to repeat this debacle. Obama and his Democrat colleagues such as Frank, Dodd, Schumer, etc., continue to militantly protect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Republican efforts to tighten the Quasi's grossly irresponsible lending practices in the acquisition and disposition of fraudulent/worthless mortgage assets.
Barack Obama, as the second leading Senatorial recipient of lending institution largess; and, as the ACORN guru who instructed ACORN operatives in the strong-arm techniques and procedures to pressure mortgage lenders to issue loans to individuals who clearly did not have the capacity to repay, is unequivocally a principal initiator of our financial crisis; and, a determined advocate of the continuation of dangerous redistribution practices which promise to usher in still further financial meltdown.
2010, followed by 2012, have become the most important elections in American history. If left unrestrained, Obama, rather thru sheer incompetence or willful intention, will do irreparable harm to America's economic, and National Security interests. Greg Neubeck

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Posted by: itkonlyyou189 | July 22, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse


The Teabaggers have got to be thrilled with this news...


Posted by: demtse | July 22, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Where is the reform for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - who hold 90% of the mortgages in this country - who insured those risky mortgages given to folks who couldn't afford to pay but whose fancy financing (0 interest/ 2-2-2 etc) caused Wall Street to find that loophole that allowed the default swaps that crashed the economies of the world?

When the Feds actually reform the companies that they formed that actually caused the problems - then I'll cheer for Obama and his "financial reform".

Posted by: LMW6 | July 22, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Now that financial reform has passed, the reactionary right is yelling that the President didn't reform Freddie and Fannie. I do wish these folks would keep up with the news before they start yapping at the President. Those self sufficient people on the right, who claim to be able to live without government, sure are the most demanding wags in the country. FYI righties: The government in now working on reforming Fannie and Freddie. They will get it done and I predict you righties will yell and complain about the results. That appears to be the only certainty on the right. How will they govern? They ain't saying. Don't count the votes before you get them.

Posted by: clairevb | July 22, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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The staff will be busy cleaning the urine and feces off the floor in the Senate, and House.

And, thank goodness, they will need to work OVERTIME!

Posted by: wcmillionairre | July 22, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

It seems that you are required to be a really SLOW reader with minimal language comprehension skills, to be a "poster" here on WSJ.

Three minutes between posts, or your post is "rejected"?

Heavens, I've read twenty pages of turgid British history, and created lecture notes, in that amount of time...

Posted by: wcmillionairre | July 22, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

There will still be urine and feces on the floor in the Senate as only one third is up for selection.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 22, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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