GAO Director Testifies Lack of Transparency and Accountability is Hurting Federal Response to Pandemic
Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2020) — Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hearing with the United States Comptroller General, Gene L. Dodaro, on a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identifies significant concerns with the federal coronavirus response and recommends improvements.
“The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and whether their government is doing all it can to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic. I am deeply troubled by GAO’s findings that the Administration is seeking to evade accountability by undermining GAO’s oversight efforts,” said Chairman Clyburn.
The Comptroller General testified that GAO’s report is designed to help federal agencies “make some mid-course corrections” and warned that the federal government has made “only limited progress in ensuring and meeting the transparency and accountability goals.”
He emphasized that for GAO to do its job, “we need to have access to all the information and all the agency officials that are responsible for these programs.”
The Comptroller General also provided the following additional information:
Lack of Transparency in the Paycheck Protection Program.
- “We still don’t know what information [SBA] collected, versus what information the banks and other financial agents have at their offices and control. So we weren’t able to do an analysis other than what the data was they provided publicly on their website as to aggregate data about different industries, different sizes of the loans, but we don’t have the specific [loan] data yet.”
- “Secondly, we didn’t have access to the key program people … so while they did make some officials available, they weren’t the ones we really wanted to talk to.”
- “But the data is essential for us. Otherwise we can’t tell the Congress specifically what type of companies got this assistance and we can’t carry out any potential risk analysis of what the potential may be for inflated applications or even people submitting false information to the government.”
Risk of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Treasury and SBA “need an oversight plan to ensure that the funds are safeguarded. There’s already some indications of fraud in the program.”
- GAO’s report notes that the Administration only plans to audit loans of more than $2 million, leaving more than 99% of all recipients with no oversight to confirm their eligibility or ensure they spend the money as Congress intended—to protect jobs.
Lack of Federal Leadership on Testing.
- “The testing data that CDC has been reporting is inconsistent and not complete. Not all the test data has been reported. States are counting different things differently, and it’s been a problem. So you really don’t have good, reliable data.”
Federal Efforts to Procure PPE Have Been Inadequate and Poorly Coordinated.
- The Comptroller General had the following exchange with Rep. Andy Kim regarding the shifting responsibilities within the Administration for procuring PPE:
Mr. Dodaro: … I think early on, HHS was taking the lead, later it was shifted to FEMA, then the President’s Task Force, the White House Task Force came in and set up a unified command and brought in people to focus on a supply chain.
Rep. Kim: Would you categorize that as a few glitches? Would you categorize the problems when it comes to coordination as a few glitches that caused the problems with getting the PPE to the states and the hospitals?