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Gov’t Agency Has No Clue How Much It Wastes On Welfare Overpayments

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials say they can’t track how much taxpayers are spending on welfare overpayments.

HHS officials for several years in a row have failed to report how much they and states erroneously gave Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients in fiscal year 2015, as required in their annual report on improper payments, according to a new audit Ernst & Young LLP conducted on behalf of the HHS Office of Inspector General (IG). HHS also failed to implement a plan to reduce incorrect TANF payments, Ernst & Young found.

But HHS officials said said they “did not report an improper payment estimate for TANF because it is a state-administered program and statutory limitations prohibit HHS from requiring states to participate in a TANF improper payment measurement,” in their response attached to the audit.

Ernst & Young said HHS is going to have to be more creative in finding a way to report erroneous welfare payments.

“HHS has not fully addressed recommendations from the prior years’ OIG performance audits related to improper payments, including the need to provide an improper payment estimate and corrective action plan for TANF, meet certain improper payment rate reduction targets, and reduce improper payment error rates below 10 percent,” the report said.

Improper payments includes underpayments, although agencies generally overpay benefits more than they underpay them. The federal government spent nearly $125 billion on improper payments in fiscal year 2014, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The federal government spent $17 billion on TANF in 2013.

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