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Feds Get New Help From GAO To Fight Fraud

Officials at the Government Accountability Office have a new tool to help federal agencies protect hundreds of billions of tax dollars from being lost to fraud.

A Framework For Managing Risks in Federal Programs is a set of guidelines created by GAO, the congressional investigative arm, to help agencies both prevent fraud and satisfy tighter efficiency requirements – the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government – coming in October.

Better protection is critical, as taxpayers saw more than one-quarter of last year’s deficit – $124.7 billion – spent on improper payments, which is just one type of fraud.

“Federal managers oversee how hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually and this new conceptual framework can be a highly effective tool in helping managers fight fraud wherever it exists,” said GAO head and Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro in a statement. The guidelines provide “managers a host of actions ranging from ways to think about fraud risks to measuring the results of their antifraud efforts.”

The tool will help “protect the integrity of hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars,” an accompanying GAO blog post said.

The accountability office will also use the framework when scrutinizing government programs in future audits, GAO spokesman Chuck Young told the Daily Caller News Foundation. He also said there are no similar tools that reach across government.

Actions to decrease “fraud risks fall into three general categories – prevention, detection and response,” the framework said. These are “interdependent and mutually reinforcing.”

Surprise audits, for example, both detect and prevent fraud through the “possibility of punishment” the framework said. “Response” would be an agency’s recovery of tax dollars and patching holes that allowed the loss.

The GAO’s tool also provides a sequential approach to combat fraud.

First, agency leaders need to develop an organization-wide culture dedicated to stopping fraud.

Then, the agency has to create risk assessments specific to each program.

Next, a strategy must be launched “focusing on prevention” and “developing a fraud response plan,” the blog said.

Last, agency officials must evaluate the strategy’s effectiveness and make changes to the plan, as needed.

To develop the guidelines, the GAO “consulted dozens of antifraud experts,” including inspector generals, state and local governments, and the World Bank, the framework said.

The tool “ may also be applicable to state, local and foreign government agencies, as well as nonprofit entities that are responsible for fraud risk management,” the framework said.

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