Washington D.C.– Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Government Operations held its first hearing entitled, “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Go Viral: Inspectors General on Curing the Disease.” Subcommittee Chairman Pete Sessions and Members of the Government Operations Subcommittee asked for answers from witnesses Richard Delmar, Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Sheldon Shoemaker, Deputy Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Larry D. Turner, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor about their efforts to detect, investigate, prevent, and report improper payments of COVID-19 relief funds.
Chairman Sessions will continue his effort to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and that those attempting to unlawfully take advantage of federal relief programs are held accountable.
Below are Subcommittee Chairman Sessions remarks as prepared for delivery:
I would like to welcome you all to our first hearing here in the newly configured Government Operations and Federal Workforce Subcommittee.
I would like to offer a special welcome to the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Mfume.
Mr. Mfume, I look forward to working with you. I suspect we may disagree on things from time to time, but we can surely find areas of agreement as well.
Today we continue the work this Committee began last month to examine waste, fraud, and abuse in COVID-relief programs.
And already, the Committee’s work has made an impact, in the form of the Biden Administration’s long overdue anti-fraud plan, which was finally released in the wake of the Full Committee hearing last month.
We have yet to see the details of this plan – the administration has certainly not briefed us on it yet.
So what we have are the talking points, which begin by calling for bipartisan legislation, but then proceed to lay the blame for all the problems at the feet of the Trump Administration.
But hearing from the experts last month, this Committee heard that federal – and state – agencies, were not prepared for the massive infusion of funds, unprecedented demand, and accelerated time lines that came with the pandemic.
But the reality is, fraud and improper payments in federal programs had been growing problems for decades, despite a number of laws having been enacted.
And another reality is that the amount of fraud and improper payments in COVID-relief programs is likely larger than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries.
So we need to look to the past to determine the underlying problems.
But in the context of looking at the present – it has been three years, almost to the day, since the onset of COVID – and we need to know has been done, and is being done, to better protect taxpayer funds.
And also looking to the future.
We need to determine what changes need to be made, to include where additional legislation may be required.
We need to determine what impediments to the oversight community need to be addressed – we heard the availability of data was and is a problem.
We also heard the statute of limitations on fraud cases likely needs to be extended.
As our work continues, we need to examine why existing federal capabilities – like Treasury’s Do Not Pay system, apparently did not serve as more of a failsafe during the pandemic.
We need to examine efforts to protect against identity theft, a main factor in COVID fraud, to include identity verification.
That will lead us to GSA’s Login.gov – intended to be a one-stop-shop to verify the identity of those seeking federal benefits.
We need to hear from the private sector – both in terms of what technologies there are to both protect against fraud and allow agencies at every level of government to scale up to meet the surge in demand that comes with crises.
There is a lot to do if we truly intend to prevent this from happening again.
And part of that is adopting a recurring oversight model for the Subcommittee to track agency progress implementing what is already on the books, and any additional requirements we may add.
I will close by thanking today's witnesses:
- Mr. Turner, Inspector General from the Department of Labor.
- Mr. Richard Delmar, Acting Inspector General at the Department of Treasury.
- And Mr. Shoemaker, Deputy Inspector General at the Small Business Administration. Mr. Shoemaker, I understand you got this promotion six months ago – so it is still new enough to say congratulations.
- I also understand you are appearing in place of Mr. Ware, the inspector general, since he is at a memorial service for his grandmother. I would appreciate it if you would convey my condolences.
With that, I will now recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Mfume, for his opening statement.