Administration pushes anti-waste effort, savings

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 12 2012 3:10 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks about the Buffett Rule, Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says it is saving taxpayers billions of dollars in improper payments to vendors and contractors, the result of a concerted attempt to reduce errors and instances of fraud in outside expenditures. To better coordinate the effort among executive agencies, it is launching a new online tool to cut waste.

The administration planned to announce Thursday that agencies have already exceeded President Barack Obama's goal, set in 2010, of recovering $2 billion in overpayments to contractors by the end of September. The administration has already reported that the government reduced its rate of improper payments in 2010 and 2011, potentially saving $20 billion over the period.

The announcement comes amid a growing scandal over spending at the General Services Administration, the agency in charge of the federal government's buildings and supplies. The agency's inspector general reported this month that the GSA spent about $823,000 for a 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort.

The administration is drawing attention to its fight on waste as Republicans and the party's likely presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, increasingly cast Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal who has expanded the government.

An administration official provided information on the improper payments effort on condition of anonymity to discuss the program ahead of its announcement.

The official said the administration was able to surpass its savings goal for the current fiscal year with the help of Medicare and Medicaid audits that have lowered excess payments in the health programs.

In his budget plan earlier this year, Obama set a goal of saving $102 billion over the next 10 years by cutting down payment errors and by improving collection of outstanding debts. To help with that effort, the Treasury Department is creating a "Do Not Pay" online site to help match various government databases and keep better track of expenditures.

The technology, officials say, would help target improper pension payments to deceased retirees or payments to contractors who have been barred from doing business with the government.

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