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Highlights

In November 2002, the Congress passed the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA). The major objective of the legislation was to enhance the accuracy and integrity of federal payments. This legislation, in conjunction with implementing guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), requires executive branch agency heads to review their programs and activities annually, identify those that may be susceptible to significant improper payments, estimate amounts improperly paid, and report on the amounts of improper payments and actions to reduce them. Since passage of IPIA, the Department of Defense (DOD) has continued to expand its annual disclosures in its performance and accountability reports (PAR) and currently discloses some detail of improper payment estimates for six programs or activities, including civilian pay, commercial pay, travel pay, military retirement, military health benefits, and military pay. DOD has reported improper payment information since 2003. The Congress mandated that we consider one facet of this reporting related to DOD--travel pay. The DOD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) first reported on whether the department complied with IPIA in fiscal year 2006 and identified several significant flaws in DOD's efforts to comply with IPIA. Over the past several years, GAO has issued numerous reports that highlighted problems with DOD travel practices that resulted in wasteful spending of millions of dollars, including weak controls over first class travel, unused airline tickets, and the accuracy of travelers' claims. Conference Report 109-676 accompanying the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 included a requirement for GAO to assess the reasons why DOD is not fully in compliance with IPIA related to travel expenditures and make any needed recommendations for corrective action. In response, this initial report provides an overview of DOD's IPIA reporting for fiscal years 2003 through 2006 and a discussion of the reasons reported by the DOD OIG that DOD was not in compliance with IPIA for fiscal year 2006. To further respond to this mandate, we plan to issue a separate report later this year that will include the results of a more comprehensive review of (1) the scope and methodology DOD used in its IPIA travel-related improper payments assessment and (2) DOD's internal control over travel-related IPIA reporting disclosures.

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