What was the government’s experience in implementing the Recovery Act?
That’s the underlying question of a study being undertaken by the federal Inspector General community on behalf of the Recovery Board over the next several months involving the $840 billion Recovery program. What mechanisms did agencies use to disburse funds? Were they effective? What obstacles did they face in implementing and administering the programs receiving Recovery money?
And what about the Inspectors General — how did they perform their oversight role? Did they develop new oversight mechanisms to counter fraud? Did they work well with the agencies they oversee?
The IGs are calling the study a “lessons learned’’ report and expect to issue their findings later this year.
The Recovery Board, consisting of 12 IGs, has been developing this idea for some time along with others in the IG community. Mary Kendall, the Acting Inspector General at the Department of the Interior, has been at the forefront in pushing this idea and is serving as the chair of the review. Along with the Interior IG’s office, we have 15 other IGs who will help gather information from their respective agencies.
Last month, I sent out letters to the agencies whose IGs are conducting the review. Here is what I told them:
“The objective of the Lessons Learned Review is to identify which actions, processes, and mechanisms have been either beneficial or posed challenges to agencies, departments, and their respective Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs) in meeting the requirements of the Recovery Act …. Each OIG will review and assess agency/departmental implementation efforts as well as the OIG’s own oversight efforts.’’
The study is designed to determine, among other things, how federal agencies communicated with recipients of Recovery funds and how they communicated instructions and new policies. We also want to know whether agencies required recipients to submit formal plans on how they might use Recovery funds. Another area of interest: How well did the agencies oversee spending by recipients?
The study also seeks to elicit feedback from agencies and Inspectors General on how well the Recovery Board and its staff did in overseeing Recovery spending.
For example: “What feedback do OIGs have regarding how the [Recovery Board] conducted oversight of Recovery Act funds? Which particular practices or examples of [Recovery Board] oversight did the OIGs find most useful? Which practices did the OIGs consider to be the least helpful to them in their own oversight of Recovery Act funds?”
Please stay tuned. You’ll hear from me again on this subject.
– Kathleen S. Tighe, Chair, Recovery Board
Inspector General Report
From: Department of Defense
Date: January 6, 2012
Re: Were contractors managed effectively
Background: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile unit awarded contractors almost $420 million in Recovery funds for 124 projects. The Pentagon’s Inspector General reviewed 11 contracts related to four projects involving a total $53.6 million in Recovery money. The purpose of the review was to evaluate how well USACE Mobile managed the contractors’ performances and if USACE had ensured that the contractors reported on the use of the funds.
Findings: USACE Mobile officials had:
- Established adequate quality controls throughout the life of each contract
- Monitored contracts for full compliance
- Ensured that use of funds was reported in clear and understandable manner
Inspector General Report
From: Department of Interior
Date: January 10, 2012
Re: Inspector General follows up on management of funding to Indian schools
Background: Interior Department officials recently checked to see if five recommendations that the agency’s Inspector General made in April 2010 had been implemented. The recommendations involved the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) management of Recovery funded programs for improving/repairing American Indian schools. BIA should:
- Obtain refunds of any advance payments to programs that later fail to adhere to specified terms.
- Ensure building repairs and improvements are funded enough to be fully completed and functional.
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities of those in charge of accountability and transparency of Recovery funds.
- Direct all tribes and contractors to post information about whistleblower protection on the project site.
- Consider using a secure, web-based project management system.
Findings: BIA had implemented all but the last recommendation, which BIA said would not be compatible with its firewall system; Interior officials concurred.