Transparency ‘enforcer’ in new oversight role

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

Call it spending oversight 2.0.

Satisfied with the work of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the independent agency created to oversee the infusion of federal dollars from the 2009 Recovery Act — the Obama Administration is having another go-round.

The Government Accountability and Transparency Board will more broadly oversee all facets of federal spending with an eye to cut government waste and increase transparency.

In contrast to the Recovery Board, the new body will be staffed with a number of high-profile federal agency leaders, rather than only inspectors general.

But some things can’t be improved upon: The administration has asked the RAT Board leader, Earl Devaney, who also serves as the Interior Department IG, to head the new oversight board.

Devaney told Federal News Radio, while the new board will be similar to RAT, it will have some notable differences. Besides membership, “the mission is different,” he said.

The mission of this new board, Devaney said, is to “take a look at the lessons learned during (the Recovery Act) and see if any of those or all of those lessons are applicable to the rest of government.”

There are three pillars supporting the GAT Board’s mission:

  • Clean data — The Recovery Board was able to collect more accurate data because it was taken directly from recipients of federal spending, rather than relying on agency-reported data, Devaney said.
  • Transparency — Devaney said the increased transparency had dramatically lowered instances of fraud in Recovery Act payouts.
  • Accountability model – Devaney said the original RAT Board used tools and modules originally created for the intelligence and law enforcement world and applied them to spending. “And lo and behold, it had the same results,” he said: “We were able to predict where fraud would occur and stop that fraud before it happened.”

As for the new GAT Board’s next steps, Devaney said it held its first meeting last week. And in six months, he and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew will prepare a report for the president containing the board’s early recommendations.

The spending watchdog had his own metaphor to describe the board’s work.

“One of the things I like to say is transparency is the friend of the enforcer and the enemy of the fraudster,” he said. “I think it sort of equates to a burglar going into a neighborhood and seeing a house well lit-up and a big sign in the yard saying ‘man-eating dog.’ I mean are you going to burglarize that house or are you going to on down the street and find a better target?”


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