Saturday, May 25, 2024

Congress Lacks Oversight When Con Artists Swindle Taxpayers

Congress is not not doing enough to monitor waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money at the federal level.

Right now, it can’t.

Hucksters swindle the federal government out of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money day and night, but the federal agencies that throw this cash out don’t discover that fraud even occurred until more than a year later.

This is according to a report the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published Thursday. The GAO cited fraud in the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) unemployment insurance (UI) program. Since the onset of COVID-19, criminals also steal money from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

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“Congress’s ability to oversee agencies’ efforts to manage fraud risks is hindered by the lack of fraud- related reporting requirements. The Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act of 2015 and the Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019 required agencies to report on their antifraud controls and fraud risk management efforts in their annual financial reports,” GAO staff members wrote.

“However, the requirement to report such information ended with the fiscal year 2020 annual financial report. Since then, there has been no similar requirement for agencies to report on their efforts to manage fraud risks.”

And if those federal agencies aren’t required to look for fraud, then they evidently won’t.

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“Managers of federal programs may perceive a conflict between their priorities to fulfill the program’s mission, such as quickly and efficiently disbursing funds or providing services to beneficiaries and taking actions to safeguard taxpayer dollars from improper use,” according to the GAO report.

The GAO recommended that federal agencies work harder to identify and assess fraud risks and document those results in a fraud risk profile. The agency recommended predictive analytics — using established data and statistical modeling — to catch and deter cheating.

Congress created four new unemployment insurance (UI) programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. As RVIVR reported in February, those programs had at least $60 billion in fraud.

Through that program, wrongdoers can grab a substantial sum of taxpayer money in just one payment.

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Organized crime, for example, has exploited these weaknesses to loot taxpayers.  

As of July 2022, at least 226 individuals faced federal fraud-related charges related to UI. DOL officials, meanwhile, reported they charged more than 1,000 individuals with crimes involving UI fraud since March 2020.

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