|WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., announced plans to examine how the federal government will account for the billions of dollars expected to be spent over the next two years as a result of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The Senators said they will hold a hearing March 5, 2009, to ensure that strong accountability measures are in place and that the spending is as transparent as possible. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag is expected to appear as a witness, along with Government Accountability Office Acting Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro and Phyllis Fong, chair of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
“Our goal is simple: It is to minimize the waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars proactively – particularly since they will be spent quickly and at levels previously unheard of,” Lieberman said. “It is critical to ensure that systems are in place – ahead of time – to oversee this massive level of spending and that the public is provided with as much information as possible about where their money is going.”
Collins said: “We have witnessed the collapse of the housing market, the unraveling of our nation’s financial institutions, and the evaporation of trillions of dollars that were invested in the stock market and in people’s retirement accounts. It is critical that we work to turn this economy around and create and save jobs, but do so with transparency and accountability. I opposed releasing the remaining TARP funds last month because the initial funds lacked the transparency and accountability that was needed to ensure that taxpayer dollars were spent wisely. I was appalled to learn that the financial institutions that benefited from the initial TARP funds were either unable or unwilling to publicly release information about how TARP dollars were spent. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with the economic stimulus package. This hearing will closely examine the safeguards that were put into place—many of which were at the insistence of Senator Lieberman and me– to ensure aggressive oversight, transparency, and accountability of economic stimulus dollars.”
The Committee’s inquiry will focus on ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to prevent cost overruns as agencies enter into contracts to spend ARRA funds, that strict oversight of contractor performance occurs, that grant conditions are met, and that fraud is promptly prosecuted.
The Committee will also look at the challenges of presenting quick and accurate information about how the funds are being spent so that taxpayers may follow the process and determine if their money is being spent wisely and effectively. The ARRA calls for a range of new and existing assets to help ensure the money is spent appropriately and efficiently. The bill provides extensive new funding for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspectors General (IGs) in the federal agencies charged with distributing stimulus funds. The bill also creates a new Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, headed by a presidential appointee, to coordinate and conduct oversight of stimulus spending across-the-board and provide regular reports to Congress and the public.
Furthermore, a new federal website, Recovery.gov, will allow the public to track where all the money is going, including disbursements at the state and local level, for an unprecedented level of transparency.