The House Oversight Committee will hear the COVID-19 pandemic relief fraud on Tuesday.
The hearing is expected to begin at 10 a.m. ET. Watch the event in the player above.
The hearing comes two weeks after inspectors general needed more authority to go after fraud in COVID-19 relief programs, an independent committee that oversees federal pandemic relief spending said.
The authority of agencies to administratively prosecute fraudsters is limited to frauds involving $150,000 or less from COVID-19 relief programs and the Justice Department is too preoccupied with cases of less than $1 million—a gap that needs to be closed. should, said the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
Michael Horowitz, the head of the committee and the Justice Department’s Inspector General, said the $150,000 limit is too low given the scope for fraud in businesses and programs set up to help people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. He is asking Congress to modify provisions in the law on fraud committed against the federal government, to increase the maximum amount of fraud claim that can be handled administratively to $1 million.
According to the committee, out of more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief spending, over $1 million have been awarded under $1 million.
Nationwide inspector generals focus on multimillion-dollar cases of alleged fraud that are handed over to the Justice Department for prosecution. Horowitz said he was not aware of any cases for less than $150,000, although he is aware of such cases that he is looking to administratively prosecute hundreds of thousands of dollars. He added that most US lawyers will not pursue cases under $1 million because they are overwhelmed by other fraud cases.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is sponsoring a bill that will bring about change. It has bipartisan support, including co-sponsor Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee was created by Congress in March 2020. It brings together the Office of Inspector General to monitor pandemic relief emergency spending and investigate fraud and improper payments spread across more than 400 programs implemented by 40 federal agencies.
Its report to Congress stressed the need to make better use of the data the federal government already has and improve data collection, especially when the major recipients of the grants are using it with sub-recipients to follow up funding from the federal to the local level. share for.
The report said billions of loans were paid out to potentially ineligible recipients at the start of the pandemic because the Small Business Administration had not checked the Treasury Department’s “do not pay” list, and billions of applicants with foreign IP addresses had Had gone. Horowitz said that “simple data matching” at the agency level should have flagged hundreds of applications using the same phone number from a gas station in Texas before the committee met.
“It shouldn’t be, right? An agency should be able to figure that out,” he said. “It’s not sophisticated data analysis.”
Horowitz said agencies have significantly improved their ability to verify eligibility for pandemic relief payments, but “there is still a significant way to go.” This prompted the committee to set up a data analytics center that Congress has asked to use when the federal government responds to future emergencies with relief spending.