Washington, DC — Michael E. Horowitz, Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) on Thursday, March 17, 2022. In his testimony, titled Pandemic Response and Accountability: Reducing Fraud and Expanding Access to COVID-19 Relief through Effective Oversight, Horowitz discussed the PRAC’s ongoing oversight work, achievements over its first two years, and the collaborative model it is providing in building a legacy for effective, coordinated government oversight.
“What the PRAC has developed over the past two years is a new model for conducting oversight in a crisis,” said Chairman Horowitz. “This new model draws on and coordinates the existing capabilities of the oversight community and surges capacity where needed. Our transparency mission and tracking of pandemic spending is unique across government.”
Key highlights in Chairman Horowitz’s testimony include:
Four Ways We Promote Transparency and Collaborate across the Oversight Community
- Through our website, PandemicOversight.gov, which features interactive dashboards and millions of lines of data, as well as content specific to state, local, and Tribal government data, a map of unemployment insurance fraud as reported by states, and a new “spotlight on” category for in-depth insights.
- Through weekly meetings with the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the American Rescue Plan implementation team, which enable the PRAC and Inspectors General to address impediments to our oversight work and share timely issues with agency leadership.
- Through regular stakeholder listening sessions with the Government Accountability Office and federal, state, and Tribal government auditors, about the impact pandemic programs have in local communities.
- Through our educational programs and informational events, where we gain and share insights on the successes and challenges of pandemic programs at the grassroots level.
The PRAC’s Efforts to Continually Improve Pandemic-related Spending Data
Chairman Horowitz also highlighted results the PRAC achieved though discussions with the Administration, namely OMB Memorandum M-21-20, Promoting Public Trust in the Federal Government through Effective Implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act and Stewardship of the Taxpayer Resources, issued on March 19, 2021, and a Joint Alert with OMB on payment integrity, issued in April 2021. But he reiterated the imperative that executive departments and agencies do more to incorporate lessons learned from previous rounds of COVID-19 stimulus—such as those discussed in our September 2021 report.
How Pending Legislation Could Enhance the PRAC’s and the IG community’s Efforts to Fight Fraud
Chairman Horowitz testified that the PRAC’s efforts could be enhanced by the reforms outlined in the Administrative False Claims Act of 2021, S.2429, which was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley and is now pending on the Senate floor, co sponsored by HSGAC Chairman Gary Peters, Ranking Member Rob Portman, and Senators Margaret Wood Hassan and James Lankford.
“Too often those who fraudulently divert tax dollars in amounts below what is typically accepted for prosecution are not fully held accountable, impacting agency programs and leaving the taxpayer footing the bill,” Chairman Horowitz stated. “This legislation raises the jurisdictional limit for administrative recoveries of ‘smaller’ false or fraudulent claims against the government from $150,000 to $1 million. This change would extend the PRAC’s and the Inspector General community’s ability to use this fraud-fighting tool to recover pandemic-related funds for the taxpayers.”
You can view Chairman Horowitz’s full testimony or download a PDF of his written statement. For more information and to see the list of witnesses, visit the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee website.
The PRAC was established by the CARES Act to promote transparency and support independent oversight of the funds provided by the CARES Act and other related emergency spending bills. In addition to its coordination and oversight responsibilities, the PRAC is tasked with supporting efforts to “prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement [and] mitigate major risks that cut across program and agency boundaries.”
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