GAO on Tracking Recovery Act Spending
- Source: Tracking Recovery Act Spending GAO, March, 2010
Across the United States, as of April 30, 2010, the Department of the Treasury has paid out $112.8 billion in Recovery Act funds for use in states and localities. Of that amount, $59.9 billion has been paid out since the start of fiscal year 2010 on October 1, 2009.
Nearly 72 percent of the federal outlays has been provided through the increased Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) administered by the Department of Education.
One Year Later: States' and Localities' Uses of Recovery Act Funds
This review responds to two ongoing mandates under the Recovery Act. It is the fifth in a series of reports since the passage of the Recovery Act on the uses of and accountability for Recovery Act funds in 16 selected states and in the District of Columbia. It is also the second in a series of reports in which GAO is required to comment on the jobs created or retained as reported by recipients of Recovery Act funds.
Issued on March 3, 2010, this review focuses on the federal programs identified below, which are funded under the Recovery Act. The review also updates the status of agencies' efforts to implement GAO's previous 23 recommendations and makes 5 new recommendations to the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.
Increased Medicaid FMAP Funding
As of January 29, 2010, the 16 states and the District have drawn down about $30 billion in increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funds, representing nearly 100 percent of these states' grant awards for federal fiscal year 2009 and about 57 percent for the first and second quarters of federal fiscal year 2010. Most states reported that, without the increased FMAP funds, they could not have continued to support the substantial Medicaid enrollment growth they have experienced, most of which was attributable to children. Most states reported that the increased FMAP funds were integral to maintaining current eligibility levels, benefits, and services and to avoiding further program reductions. As for the longer–term outlook for their Medicaid programs, the District and all but one of the selected states expressed concern about sustaining their programs after the increased FMAP funds are no longer available, beginning in January 2011.
Highway Infrastructure Investment and Transit Funding
As of February 16, 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had obligated $25.1 billion and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had obligated about $7.5 billion—combined about $32.6 billion (over 93 percent) of the $35 billion that the Recovery Act provided for highway infrastructure projects and public transportation. Nationwide, Recovery Act funding has been obligated for over 11,000 eligible highway projects. However, some requirements, such as the Recovery Act's maintenance–of–effort requirement—which is designed to prevent states from substituting federal funds for state fundsâ€”have proven challenging. Many states have yet to complete a maintenance–of–effort certification that DOT finds fully acceptable, and this, coupled with states' fiscal challenges, raises questions as to whether this requirement will achieve its intended purpose. In addition, the Recovery Act does not require DOT to determine whether states have met this requirement until around 6 months after the provision's covered time period expires. GAO recommends that DOT gather timely information and report preliminary information to Congress within 60 days of the certified period (Sept. 30, 2010) on whether states met required program expenditures, the reasons that any states did not meet these certified levels, and lessons learned from the process. DOT is considering GAO's recommendation.
As of January 22, 2010, the 16 states and the District had drawn down, in total, about $13.3 billion (56 percent) from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF); $1.1 billion (17 percent) of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A funds; and $1.2 billion (17 percent) of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, Recovery Act funds available to them. Much of the Recovery Act education funds have been used to pay education staff, including teachers. In response to GAO's recommendation that Education ensure states monitor subrecipients of SFSF funds, Education announced a plan for reviewing states' SFSF subrecipient monitoring plans. GAO is continuing to work with Education to address our recommendation to enhance transparency by requiring states to include an explanation of changes to maintenance–of–effort levels in their SFSF application resubmissions.
Other Selected Recovery Act Programs
Housing agencies are to obligate the $3 billion in Public Housing Capital Fund formula grant Recovery Act funds they received by March 17, 2010. As of January 30, 2010, about 31 percent of these funds had not been obligated. Over 200 agencies reported obligating no funds. HUD has worked hard to implement the Recovery Act but has faced challenges in simultaneously carrying out public housing programs mandated by the Recovery Act, including designing and carrying out a $1 billion grant competition, while meeting its continuing responsibilities for the ongoing Public Housing Capital Fund program. As a result, HUD delayed obligating its fiscal year 2009 funds by 3 months. HUD does not have a management plan to determine how to meet these competing demands. GAO recommends that HUD develop such a plan to determine the adequate level of staffing needed to administer its Recovery Act and regular capital funds and to determine the most effective use of the staff it currently has.
While HUD disagrees with GAO's recommendation, GAO continues to believe HUD would benefit from developing such a plan. With regard to the Weatherization Assistance Program, as of December 31, 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) had obligated about $4.73 billion to states for weatherization activities. On February 24, 2010, DOE reported that about 5 percent of the approximately 593,000 homes DOE originally planned to weatherize using Recovery Act funds had been weatherized as of December 31, 2009. State and local officials reported that weatherization activities had been slowed by concerns over compliance with the Davis-Bacon and National Historic Preservation Acts. The Recovery Act also included $1.2 billion for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth activities, including summer employment. As of December 31, 2009, $765 million of WIA youth funds had been drawn down nationwide. Over 355,000 youths reportedly participated in Recovery Act WIA activities.
Progress was achieved in addressing some data quality and reporting issues identified in the first round; however data errors, reporting inconsistencies, and decisions by some recipients not to use the new job reporting guidance for this round compromise data quality and the ability to aggregate the data. For example in the education area, which was the largest category of jobs reported, GAO found that a number of states reported job numbers using the old methodology.
Overall, while significant issues remain, the second round of reporting appears to have gone more smoothly as recipients have become more familiar with the reporting system and requirements. GAO expects that the simplified jobs reporting guidance and reporting system enhancements will ultimately result in improved data quality and reliability. GAO makes specific recommendations to Education, HUD, and OMB for improving reporting guidance. Education, HUD, and OMB generally agreed with the recommendations.
GAO has recommended that OMB adjust the Single Audit process to help mitigate the risks posed by Recovery Act funding. Although OMB has taken steps to implement our recommendations, these efforts do not yet fully address the significant risks over Recovery Act funds. OMB's steps include a voluntary Single Audit Internal Control Project that encourages earlier reporting of deficiencies, so that corrective action can be taken. Auditors of states participating in the project submitted internal control reports to OMB by December 31, 2009. For 13 of the 16 states, auditors reported over 70 internal control deficiencies that affected the states' compliance with federal requirements for Recovery Act funds. These states also provided corrective action plans for the deficiencies. OMB plans to analyze the project's results to identify improvements to the Single Audit process by the spring of 2010.
GAO updates the status of agencies' efforts to implement GAO's 23 previous recommendations and makes 5 new recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Departments of Transportation (DOT), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Education. GAO continues to believe that Congress should consider changes related to the Single Audit process. See full report (PDF, 182 pages)
View the full Recovery Act
- Recovery Act - Opportunities to Improve Management and Strengthen Accountability over States’ and Localities’ Uses of Funds GAO, September, 2010
GAO on project selection and federal requirements
- Source: Project Selection and Starts Are Influenced by Certain Federal Requirements and Other Factors GAO, February, 2010
As of December 31, 2009, the 27 federal agencies GAO reviewed had obligated a total of $194 billion (63 percent) of the approximately $309 billion that was appropriated by the Recovery Act for projects and activities, according to data provided by agency officials. By this date, the percentage of funds obligated ranged from nearly 100 percent for the National Endowment for the Arts ($50 million) to 18 percent for the Social Security Administration ($183 million).
As of that same date, the agencies reported they had spent 20 percent ($61 billion) of their appropriated funds. However, according to agency officials, the amount reported as spent may not accurately reflect the amount of work done on a given project because payment for federal projects generally occurs after work is completed, and the recipient may not yet have submitted an invoice for payment.
Some federal agency officials reported that certain federal requirements and other factors affected their ability to select and start Recovery Act projects. These include the following:
Davis-Bacon requirements. Four federal agencies—the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency—told us that Davis-Bacon requirements affected the timing of some of their Recovery Act projects. For example, the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program became subject to the Davis-Bacon requirements for the first time after having been previously exempt from those requirements.
GAO on "Maintenance of Effort"
- Source: RECOVERY ACT Planned Efforts and Challenges in Evaluating Compliance with Maintenance of Effort and Similar Provisions GAO, November, 2009
GAO identified eight programs in the Recovery Act with new maintenance of effort provisions. These programs span the areas of education, highway, housing, rail, telecommunications, and transit, and account for about $100.5 billion in Recovery Act appropriations. The maintenance of effort or similar provisions are designed to prevent recipients, such as state departments of transportation, public housing agencies, and private companies, from substituting planned spending for a given program with Recovery Act funds—that is, the provisions ensure that the increased federal spending will supplement rather than replace state, local, or private spending.
Although the maintenance of effort or similar provisions of these eight programs share a common purpose, the specifics of each provision vary by responsible agency. These variations include whether a state must certify the amount of funding it will maintain, whether waivers are allowed, and the consequences (if any) of not meeting the provisions. For example, the Recovery Act allows the Secretary of Education to waive state maintenance of effort requirements for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, under certain circumstances, but other programs GAO reviewed for this study did not have such a waiver provision.
GAO on contract oversight activities
- Source: Recovery Act: Contract Oversight Activities of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and Observations on Contract Spending in Selected States GAO, November 30, 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was enacted on February 17, 2009, to help stimulate the United States economy by creating new jobs, as well as saving existing ones, and investing in projects that will provide long-term economic benefits.1 Estimates show that the Recovery Act’s combined spending and tax provisions will cost $787 billion over 10 years—about $207 billion in tax reductions plus about $580 billion in additional federal spending. These funds are being provided directly to federal agencies and also distributed to states, localities, other entities, and individuals through a combination of formula and competitive grants and direct assistance.
About $280 billion of the funds will be administered through state and local governments. The Recovery Act delineates an important set of responsibilities for the accountability community. The inspectors general across government are expected to audit the programs, grants, and projects funded under the Recovery Act, both within their particular agency or department and collectively. To address the collective oversight at the federal level, the Recovery Act established the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to help prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. In addition, the Recovery Act requires GAO to perform bimonthly reviews of the use of funds by selected states and localities and to comment on estimates of jobs created or retained in the quarterly reports of Recovery Act fund recipients.
GAO was asked to report on the activities of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (the Board), as well as on contract-related information collected from the work GAO has completed thus far in 16 states and the District of Columbia. This report provides our observations to date on the extent to which:
- the Board is monitoring federal agency contract spending on Recovery Act-related contracts
- selected states are using competitive procedures in awarding contracts using Recovery Act funds.
To determine the actions taken by the Board, we met with representatives of the Board to discuss the initiatives they have taken to monitor the number and types of contracts issued by federal agencies for the Recovery Act and their plans to assess the extent to which laws and regulations are being complied with or circumvented. We reviewed available documentation related to the Board’s initiatives. We also reviewed data reported by federal agencies and states through the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation and www.recovery.gov (Recovery.gov) related to federal contracts awarded using Recovery Act funds.
GAO on the Recovery Act -- State appendixes
- Funds Continue to Provide Fiscal Relief to States and Localities, While Accountability and Reporting Challenges Need to Be Fully Addressed GAO, October, 2009
State appendixes on "Recovery Act" funds.
GAO on states’ and localities’ use of the Recovery Act
As of May 7, 2010, approximately $114.8 billion, or 41 percent of the approximately $282 billion of total Recovery Act funds for programs administered by states and localities, had been paid out by the federal government. Most outlays to date have been for health and education and training, but, increasingly, investments in transportation, community development, energy, and the environment will characterize new spending.
Education As of April 16, 2010, the 16 states and the District had drawn down about $14.3 billion (64 percent) of their State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) for education stabilization; $3.2 billion (56 percent) SFSF for government services; $1.8 billion (28 percent) for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A; and $2.1 billion (29 percent) for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. Much of the Recovery Act education funds have been used to pay teachers and other education staff. Education is continuing to award SFSF funds and taking actions to ensure monitoring of funds. To address concerns GAO raised, Education required states to submit plans to monitor their subrecipients’ use of SFSF funds and will be following up with states.
Highway Infrastructure Investment and Public Transportation Funding Nationwide, the Federal Highway Administration obligated $26.2 billion for over 12,000 projects, and the Federal Transit Administration obligated $8.7 billion for about 1,000 grants. Highway funds were used primarily for pavement improvement projects, and public transportation funds were used primarily for upgrading transit facilities and improving bus fleets. GAO recommends that DOT determine the types of data, performance measures, and authority needed to collect data and report on whether these investments produced long-term benefits. Publicly available data overstates the amount of Recovery Act funds benefiting economically distressed areas. GAO recommends that DOT advise states to correct their reporting on distressed area designations to reflect current DOT decisions. DOT is considering GAO’s recommendations. DOT concurred in part with GAO’s March 2010 recommendation that it gather and report more timely information on the progress states are making in meeting the maintenance-of-effort requirements; GAO plans to continue to monitor DOT’s actions.
Weatherization Assistance Program The Recovery Act provides $5 billion for weatherization funding nationwide. As of March 31, 2010 (the most recent data available), recipients had spent about $659 million to weatherize about 80,000 homes; this represents about 13 percent of the 593,000 homes originally planned for weatherization. GAO makes several recommendations to DOE to develop and clarify program guidance in such areas as training and certification of workers. DOE generally agrees with all of GAO’s recommendations.
Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) As of March 31, 2010, the 16 states and the District have drawn down about $12.7 billion in increased FMAP funds for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2010, representing over 92 percent of the total grant award available for this time period. The increased FMAP continues to help states cover their increased caseloads and frees up states’ funds, which help finance other needs. Medicaid enrollment continued to grow, and the increase remains primarily attributable to children. States and the District remain concerned about the sustainability of their programs without these funds and most have already reduced or frozen certain provider payment rates or imposed new provider taxes. For other program changes, states will need to consider how maintenance of eligibility requirements within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, could affect the financing of their Medicaid programs.
Public Housing Capital Fund, Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP), and the Recovery Act Section 1602 Program (Section 1602 Program) Housing agencies met the March 17, 2010, deadline to obligate, reject, or return a portion of the $3 billion in formula grants. As of May 1, 2010, agencies had drawn down about $1 billion of these funds for projects such as replacing roofs or windows. HUD is reviewing obligations made just before the deadline to determine if any should be recaptured. HUD plans to redistribute any recaptured or returned funds this summer. As of April 30, 2010, HUD had obligated $2.25 billion for TCAP and Treasury had obligated $5.45 billion for the Section 1602 Program to develop or rehabilitate units. State Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) reported concerns about their responsibility to recapture program funds from noncompliant projects and restrictions on using interest-bearing repayable loans. GAO recommends that Treasury define the actions HFAs must take to recapture funds—Treasury agrees—and that Congress consider directing Treasury to permit HFAs to disburse funds as interest-bearing repayable loans.
- Status of States’ and Localities’ Use of Funds and Efforts to Ensure Accountability GAO, December, 2009
As of November 27, 2009, $69.1 billion, or about one quarter of the approximately $280 billion of total Recovery Act funds for programs administered by states and localities, had been paid out.
Health, education, and training accounted for almost 85 percent of Recovery Act outlays to date for programs administered by states and localities (see figure). The largest programs within these areas were the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) for education and other purposes, and highways.
GAO testimony on municipal fiscal stresses
- Source: States’ and Localities’ Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses September 10, 2009, GAO
This testimony is based largely on GAO’s July 8, 2009 report, in response to a mandate under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act).
This testimony provides selected updates, including the status of federal Recovery Act outlays. The report addresses:
- selected states’ and localities’ uses of Recovery Act funds,
- the approaches taken by the selected states and localities to ensure accountability for Recovery Act funds,
- states’ plans to evaluate the impact of Recovery Act funds.
GAO’s work for the report is focused on 16 states and certain localities in those jurisdictions as well as the District of Columbia—representing about 65 percent of the U.S. population and two-thirds of the intergovernmental federal assistance available. GAO collected documents and interviewed state and local officials. GAO analyzed federal agency guidance and spoke with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials and with program officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Transportation.
What GAO Recommends
GAO makes recommendations and a matter for congressional consideration discussed on the next page. The report draft was discussed with federal and state officials who generally agreed with its contents. OMB officials generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations to OMB. DOT agreed to and has since addressed GAO’s recommendation.
Impact of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act
- Source: The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 First Quarterly Report, Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisors, September 10, 2009
As of the end of August, $151.4 billion of the original $787 billion has been outlaid or has gone to American taxpayers and businesses in the form of tax reductions. An additional $128.2 billion has been obligated, which means that the money is available to recipients once they make expenditures. The areas where stimulus has been largest in the first six months are individual tax cuts, state fiscal relief, and aid to those most directly hurt by the recession. That recovery funds have gone out rapidly certainly increases the probability that the Act has been effective in its first six months.
Following implementation of the ARRA, the trajectory of the economy changed materially toward moderating output decline and job loss. The decomposition of the GDP and employment change by components or sector suggests that the ARRA has played a key role in this change of trajectory.
Estimates of the impact of the ARRA made by comparing actual economic performance to the predictions of a plausible, statistical baseline suggest that the Recovery Act added roughly 2.3 percentage points to real GDP growth in the second quarter and is likely to add even more to growth in the third quarter.
This analysis indicates that the ARRA and other policy actions caused employment in August to be slightly more than 1 million jobs higher than it otherwise would have been.
We estimate that the Act has had particularly strong effects in manufacturing, construction, retail trade, and temporary employment services. The employment effects are distributed across states, with larger effects in states more severely impacted by the recession.
In addition to the estimates based on statistical projection, we provide estimates of the effects of the ARRA from standard economic models. Both our multiplier analysis and estimates from a wide range of private and public sector forecasters confirm the estimates from the statistical projection analysis. There is broad agreement that the ARRA has added between 2 and 3 percentage points to baseline real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2009 and around 3 percentage points in the third quarter. There is also broad agreement that it has likely added between 600,000 and 1.1 million to employment (again, relative to what would have happened without stimulus) as of the third quarter.
Fiscal stimulus appears to be effective in mitigating the worldwide recession. Nearly every industrialized country and many emerging economies responded to the severe financial crisis and recession by enacting fiscal stimulus. However, countries differed greatly in the size of their fiscal actions. We find that countries that adopted larger fiscal stimulus packages have outperformed expectations relative to those adopting smaller packages.
State fiscal relief was one of the ways in which the Recovery Act was able to provide support for the economy most quickly, and it played a critical role in helping states facing large budget shortfalls because of the recession. Our analysis indicates that state fiscal relief increased employment at the state level relative to what would have happened without stimulus. Thus, this analysis both provides evidence of how one particular type of fiscal stimulus impacts the economy and corroborates the more fundamental finding that fiscal stimulus in general is an effective countercyclical tool.
President Obama's remarks on the anniversary of Lehman's failure
- Source: President Obama's remarks on the anniversary of Lehman's failure White House, September 14, 2009
Eight months later, the work of recovery continues. And though I will never be satisfied while people are out of work and our financial system is weakened, we can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break. In fact, while there continues to be a need for government involvement to stabilize the financial system, that necessity is waning. After months in which public dollars were flowing into our financial system, we're finally beginning to see money flowing back to taxpayers. This doesn't mean taxpayers will escape the worst financial crisis in decades entirely unscathed. But banks have repaid more than $70 billion, and in those cases where the government's stakes have been sold completely, taxpayers have actually earned a 17 percent return on their investment. Just a few months ago, many experts from across the ideological spectrum feared that ensuring financial stability would require even more tax dollars. Instead, we've been able to eliminate a $250 billion reserve included in our budget because that fear has not been realized.
While full recovery of the financial system will take a great deal more time and work, the growing stability resulting from these interventions means we're beginning to return to normalcy. But here's what I want to emphasize today: Normalcy cannot lead to complacency.
Unfortunately, there are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment. Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we're still recovering, they're choosing to ignore those lessons. I'm convinced they do so not just at their own peril, but at our nation's. So I want everybody here to hear my words: We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.
Feds to empower ‘citizen IGs’ to watch stimulus spending
- Source: Feds to empower ‘citizen IGs’ to watch stimulus spending Federal Times, September 21, 2009
Countless citizens will be empowered next week to help spot fraud and waste in the spending of $787 billion in economic stimulus money.
Recovevry.gov, a Web site launching Sept. 28, will fuse spending data, project information and recipient information to enable interested citizens to track exactly where the stimulus money is going and what it is paying for.
This level of transparency will unleash a new form of oversight, predicts Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which is charged with overseeing stimulus spending.
The new Web site will create “citizen IGs” able to spot and report anomalies in spending that even the best data-mining tools might not find among billions of dollars, he said. In addition, citizens might be aware of improper relationships between local officials and contractors or of reasons behind a lack of progress on a project, Devaney said.
“Our job is just to put up the good, the bad and the ugly, regardless of who it embarrasses,” Devaney said in a Sept. 17 interview. “My inclination is to throw everything up there for everyone to see,” he added.
If successful, the approach could be applied to the almost $1 trillion in federal contract and grant money spent each year.
“Whatever we do here will serve as a prototype for the future. I don’t think you’ll find politicians saying ‘Let’s go back to the old nontransparent way,’ ” Devaney told a conference of the Association of Government Accountants last week.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that in the private sector, 7 percent of annual revenues are lost to fraud. If that holds true for the $787 billion in Recovery Act spending, $55 billion could be lost to fraud.
Enabling more eyes to follow the money through Recovery.gov should help reduce waste, fraud and abuse of Recovery Act spending, Devaney argued.
“It’s like a well-lighted house in the neighborhood with alarms and guard dogs,” Devaney said. “If you are going to steal money, will you steal this money? It’s very visible.”
Devaney said he has been accused of “driving crime from one neighborhood to another,” but he argued that this will make other government dollars more secure. If Recovery Act dollars are spent better because of more transparency, citizens will demand that agencies follow suit in reporting other areas of government spending, he said.
But creating thousands of new citizen IGs will almost certainly create new challenges. It may be that the overwhelming number of allegations received are false or frivolous, lodged by citizens who may oppose a project for political or other reasons or who are simply ill-informed or interpreting data incorrectly, Devaney said.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board aims to reduce the volume of frivolous reports by spelling out on the Web site what kind of information it is interested in from citizens, Devaney said.
“We’re not going to get involved in the subjective judgment of: ‘Is that project or endeavor good or bad?’ ” Devaney said. Rather, the board will look at information that clearly indicates waste, fraud and abuse, such as evidence of funding recipients making false claims or spending money in ways not authorized by the program.
To help manage the high volume of expected citizen feedback, federal IGs and oversight offices are hiring more staff with funds provided them in the Recovery Act, said Douglas Hassebrock, assistant director of investigations for the RAT Board.
One problem though: State and local auditors haven’t received additional funding, and it will be a challenge for them to keep up as many states are facing budget cuts, Devaney said.
Citizen hot-line complaints were an important part of fighting fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, said David Dugas, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana and director of the Justice Department’s Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force’s National Command Center. Often citizens provided the tips that uncovered schemes that would have otherwise gone undetected, he said.
To manage the volume and avoid duplication of work by state, local and federal agencies responding to multiple reports of the same fraud, the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force centralized the collection of leads, screened cases and de-conflicted investigations, Dugas said. The RAT Board can serve a similar role, he said.
Another transparency challenge is data accuracy. Human error and reporting lags from government databases such as the Federal Procurement Data System may create discrepancies that appear like fraud to citizens, Devaney said. That could complicate things because it erodes trust in the data, he said.
Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser called data quality the biggest challenge facing agencies. To avoid the “garbage in, garbage out” scenario, Commerce is examining how it reports its information and putting controls in place to make sure data entry is sound. With the help of Zinser’s office, the department has been testing how its accounting systems transmit data to Recovery.gov to ensure that nothing is lost or corrupted in transmission, Zinser said.
“Data integrity is the overarching objective,” he said. “Everybody is focused on making sure people know what is happening with Recovery Act dollars ... the data quality has to be there.”
Zinser, a RAT Board member, said all agencies have been asked to check the quality of data that funding recipients are reporting, similar to what the Commerce Department is doing.
Devaney credited the Recovery Act’s transparency requirements for providing the impetus to change how inspectors general and auditors think about preventing waste, fraud and abuse. IGs typically follow up on reports of fraud rather than look for it proactively. That’s different with the Recovery Act spending. In this case, IGs are employing data-mining tools to find patterns in data that may flag a problem, Devaney said.
The Agriculture Department has used data-mining tools since 2000 to reduce fraud on its crop insurance program, which pays farmers for crop losses. The tools tie together claims histories with weather patterns and mapping to show anomalous patterns, such as a claimant filing 20 years of losses or claims of drought in wet years.
The program has saved $1.6 billion through cost avoidances alone, said Garland Westmoreland, director of strategic data, acquisition and analysis for Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency.
Rather than prosecuting farmers making false claims, which would not have returned a lot of money, the farmers were put on spot-check lists, which caused many farmers to stop making false claims against their policies, Westmoreland said. Stopping the behavior and saving money to make it available to those truly in need is the purpose of the analysis, he said. Such tools are sure to be employed to watch over a wide variety of federally financed projects, not just Recovery Act projects, Westmoreland said.
The transparency requirements are also driving an unprecedented level of information sharing between federal, state and local entities, Devaney and other inspectors general said. “Police departments have Officer Friendly, who comes around and suggests things to do to prevent your house from getting burglarized,” Devaney said. “We’re adopting that approach.”
California Stimulus Map
- Source: California Economic Recovery Portal (See top of page)
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding is disseminated by the federal government directly to various entities within a state including state government entities, local government entities, local businesses, local non-profits and other organizations. Under 50 percent of Recovery funding is estimated to flow through state government entities.
This page provides information about projects known to have been awarded Recovery funding within the geographic boundaries of California, by County. The California Recovery Task Force continues to receive federal guidelines and information regarding additional projects awarded Recovery funding. This map will be updated as additional information becomes available.
This representation does not satisfy federal reporting requirements and is not the state's official, comprehensive reporting mechanism for Recovery Act funding. It has been created and displayed as a service to the citizens of California.
- Jobs for America: Investments and policies for economic growth and competitiveness Milken Institute, January 2010
- The Recession and the Recovery in Perspective Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
- Chart of the Day: Why the Stimulus Didn't Work Mother Jones, March 22, 2011
- An Economic Analysis of Infrastructure Investment US Treasury & Council of Economic Advisers, October 11, 2010
- Treasury Announces State-By-State Funding Allocations US Treasury, October 8, 2010
- SPEECH: Progress In the American Recovery US Treasury, August 23, 2010
- Compare recovery measures across Europe BBC, August 2, 2010
- The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Fourth Quarterly Report The White House , July 14, 2010
- Taming Finance in an Age of Austerity: Joseph E. Stiglitz Project Syndicate, July 8, 2010
- Recovery Act IRS - Quickly Implemented Tax Provisions, but Reporting and Enforcement Improvements Are Needed GAO, February, 2010
- Treasury Surpasses $4 Billion Milestone in Recovery Act Funds to Create Jobs, Provide Affordable Housing December 22, 2009
- Treasury Surpasses $3 Billion in Recovery Act Funds for States to Provide Affordable Housing October 23, 2009