Government Accountability Office: $281 Billion In Improper Federal Payments In 2021

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolicy

In 2021, $281 billion of taxpayer money was improperly spent, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Improper payments are payments made by the U.S. government that should not have been made or have been made in an incorrect amount. Each year, the Treasury Department quantifies the prior year’s improper payments and the GAO audits them.

At, we reported that trillions have been improperly spent since 2004.

In 2021, the Treasury admitted to over $281 billion in improper payments, a $75 billion increase from the $206 billion in improper payments the GAO found in 2020.

One might think the increase came from massive Covid-19 relief programs. However, the auditors generally excluded major relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program from their analysis, meaning the amount may be much higher. 

RELATED: Brooklyn Gang Members Stole $4 Million In Covid Funds

Improper payments accounted for 18.9 percent of all government transactions in 2021, more than double than in 2020. An increase in outlays for unemployment insurance also contributed to more improper payments, according to the report.

The most disturbing part of the report, however, is when the GAO notes that there is a “material deficiency” in the government’s ability to “determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that appropriate actions are taken to reduce them.”

It also found the government can’t “identify and resolve information security control deficiencies and manage information security risks on an ongoing basis.”

Not only is the government making an increasingly-large sum of improper payments each year, it also doesn’t know what to do about it.

Time is running out. A growing debt-to-GDP ratio makes it harder to get out of the hole we’re digging. The more debt we’re in, the more wasted money harms the U.S. economy.

Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at


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