- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The chief auditor overseeing spending of $787 billion in stimulus money said Thursday that some fraud and waste is inevitable.

He promised to try to keep it to a minimum.

Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, told lawmakers the problem will be aggravated by a lack of federal workers needed to oversee the spending. Federal agencies will have difficulty hiring enough skilled workers “to minimize the risks associated with moving this amount of money quickly,” Devaney told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said the industry standard level of fraud is 7 percent, and that would equate to about $55 billion in stimulus dollars wasted. Noting the outcry over $165 million in employee bonuses at bailed-out insurance giant AIG, Burton said $55 billion in stimulus waste and fraud would prompt the American people to “march on the Capitol.”

“The first time I took a pencil and figured that out, I was horrified to see it was $55 billion,” Devaney responded.

He said with a zero tolerance approach and a coordinated effort with local and state officials, the fraud could be minimized.

Legislation may be needed to provide funding to police departments, prosecutors, and others at the local and state level to help with oversight, he said.

Devaney’s board _ referred to by its acronym “RAT” _ was charged with creating and maintaining a government Web site called Recovery.gov that tracks stimulus spending.

Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., the committee chairman, said he thinks the Web site is not currently a usable database and he will ask Vice President Joe Biden to spearhead a uniform approach to tracking the money. Biden has been tasked by the president with overseeing the implementation of the stimulus.

Devaney said the federal government’s systems have never been fully successful at producing timely and reliable data, but he’s working to strike a balance between having complex data and searching capabilities, but also being user friendly.

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On the Net:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: https://www.recovery.gov/

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