Federal law defines the term as "payments made by the government to the wrong person, in the wrong amount, or for the wrong reason."
When people or companies receive incorrect payments, it erodes trust and hinders the government's ability to finance everything from defense to health care.
Recently, auditors at OpenTheBooks.com published a 24-page oversight report analyzing why, how, and where federal agencies wasted our tax dollars last year.
Here are the top 10 takeaways regarding improper and mistaken payments by the 20 largest federal agencies in 2019:
1. Total Mistakes: $175 billion in estimated improper payments reported by the 20 largest federal agencies, averaging $14.6 billion per month – Total (FY2004-FY2019): $2.25 trillion.
2. Worst Programs - $121 billion (approximately 69 percent) in improper payments occurred within three program areas – Medicaid, Medicare, and Earned Income Tax Credit.
3. Claw Back – only $21.1 billion of the $175 billion improper payments during 2019 was recaptured — that's only 14 cents on every dollar misspent. Five-year total: $103.6 billion recaptured/ $747.7 billion improperly spent