|WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., heard testimony Thursday from federal oversight officials about measures they are taking to track stimulus spending and ensure a minimum of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
About $499 billion of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending will go toward programs and projects. The other $288 billion goes toward tax relief.
“We intend to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent cost overruns, provide strict oversight of contractor performance, and ensure that fraud is promptly prosecuted in all aspects of stimulus spending,” Lieberman said. “We want to make sure that every dollar targeted for spending on projects and programs will be used to restart the economy with not a penny lost, wasted or stolen. Speed is important, but we must not repeat the kind of mistakes that occurred in support of Iraqi reconstruction projects or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where money was rushed out the door with little accountability and billions were wasted. The last thing we need is waste and fraud in the spending of the billions of dollars of stimulus funds, which would break the public’s confidence in their government just when we need it the most.”
Collins said: “The economic stimulus package contains robust infrastructure spending, significant funding for state aid, tax relief for low- and middle-income families, and incentives for small businesses. The investments are intended to help turn our nation’s troubled economy around. To be successful these stimulus funds have to be spent effectively and with transparency and accountability. They simply cannot be lost to waste, fraud, and mismanagement. If these funds are not awarded in a timely, transparent, and appropriate manner, the impact of the economic stimulus package on the recovery will be blunted, and the results – whether for new jobs, better roads and schools, or other critical investments – will fall short of our expectations.”
Contained within the Recovery Act are a number of provisions to increase transparency and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. For example, the law appropriated about $84 million for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which will coordinate and conduct oversight of the spending. The board is required to establish a website, Recovery.gov, to report spending by the recipients of federal funds. The Recovery Act also appropriated about $252 million to agency Inspectors General across the government to oversee spending within their Departments. And it adds protection for whistleblowers who work for state or local governments or for private contractors, who generally have no federal protection against retaliation if they disclose waste or fraud in the spending of federal funds.
Witnesses were Robert Nabors, the Deputy Director at the Office of Management and Budget, Gene Dodaro the Acting Comptroller General, and Phyllis K. Fong, Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture who chairs the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.