Fraud busters


Fraud busters

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 - 8:00
Monday, November 29, 2010 - 16:10
As the Vice President pronounced, folks who believe the government is a cauldron of fraud are wrong – at least when it comes to the stimulus act.

In the week before the Thanksgiving holiday, Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address at the Biennial National Procurement and Grant Fraud Conference in Philadelphia. The Vice President focused his speech on the remarkable degree to which Recovery Act spending has been free of fraud. As of September 30, 2010, he noted, less than three million dollars of ARRA awards have been charged in non-tax fraud investigations—that’s a mere 0.01% of the money that’s been spent so far.

Biden focused on the success of the four main fraud-prevention efforts.

First, the website, he said, deputized thousands of citizens  to identify fraud themselves. “Not only can any citizen see these details, on every page of the site, they can hit the button at the top right of the screen and report fraud, waste or abuse,” he explained.

Second, he described the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s Recovery Operations Center: “It’s like a NASA control room. It’s astounding.  They’ve got large screens on all the walls going at all times with analysts stationed underneath them looking for connections in data, for patterns—patterns that mirror steps taken by those engaged in illegal activities—an early warning system. The idea is to pull together all information from public and government sources to one central place where it can be analyzed.”

Third, Biden praised training for personnel involved in implementing the Recovery Act.

Finally, Biden pointed out that there has been government-wide engagement on the Recovery Act, especially with respect to waste, fraud, and abuse. From regular meetings with the Cabinet to pre-implementation risk assessment planning by agencies, the whole Act has been delivered with an eye to preventing fraud, not simply detecting it.

We’re pretty impressed by these efforts and their results.  At the same time, out of fear of seeming like people who are never entirely happy with anything, we feel like we need to point out that fraud prevention and punishment are only one part of full accountability. We’d argue that that there should be as great an effort at  the federal, state and local level, to measure the real benefits and outcomes from this spending in a programmatic sense, beyond jobs created or saved or dollars circulated.

Wouldn’t it be great if more of the cutting-edge analysis Biden mentions was dedicated to assessing just what sort of bang we’re getting for our stimulus buck in terms of transportation or education or health outcomes? We’re going to renew our efforts to find this kind of information. For reasons we’ll describe in tomorrow’s post we think we’ll be successful.