A Pakistani man was sentenced today in the Northern District of Illinois for a health care fraud scheme and money laundering conspiracy.
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio
August 20, 2021
- Rebuilding Iraq: Fiscal Year 2003 Contract Award Procedures and Management Challenges
August 25, 2021Congress has appropriated more than $20 billion since April 2003 to support rebuilding efforts in Iraq. This complex undertaking, which is occurring in an unstable security environment and under significant time constraints, is being carried out largely through contracts with private-sector companies. As of September 2003, agencies had obligated nearly $3.7 billion on 100 contracts or task orders under existing contracts. Given widespread congressional interest in ensuring that reconstruction contracts are awarded properly and administered effectively, GAO reviewed 25 contract actions that represented about 97 percent of the obligated funds. GAO determined whether agencies had complied with competition requirements in awarding new contracts and issuing task orders and evaluated agencies’ initial efforts in carrying out contract administration tasks.Agencies used sole-source or limited competition approaches to issue new reconstruction contracts, and when doing so, generally complied with applicable laws and regulations. Agencies did not, however, always comply with requirements when issuing task orders under existing contracts. For new contracts, the law generally requires the use of full and open competition, where all responsible prospective contractors are allowed to compete, but permits sole-source or limited competition awards in specified circumstances, such as when only one source is available or to meet urgent requirements. All of the 14 new contracts GAO examined were awarded without full and open competition, but each involved circumstances that the law recognizes as permitting such awards. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers properly awarded a sole-source contract for rebuilding Iraq’s oil infrastructure to the only contractor that was determined to be in a position to provide the services within the required time frame. The Corps documented the rationale in a written justification, which was approved by the appropriate official. The U.S. Agency for International Development properly awarded seven contracts using limited competition. The Department of State, however, justified the use of limited competition by citing an authority that may not be a recognized exception to competition requirements, although a recognized exception could have been used. There was a lesser degree of compliance when agencies issued 11 task orders under existing contracts. Task orders are deemed by law to satisfy competition requirements if they are within the scope, period of performance, and maximum value of a properly awarded underlying contract. GAO found several instances where contracting officers issued task orders for work that was not within the scope of the underlying contracts. For example, to obtain media development services and various subject matter experts, the Defense Contracting Command-Washington placed two orders using a management improvement contract awarded under the General Services Administration’s schedule program. But neither of the two orders involved management improvement activities. Work under these and other orders should have been awarded using competitive procedures or, due to the exigent circumstances, supported by a justification for other than full and open competition. The agencies encountered various contract administration challenges during the early stages of the reconstruction effort, stemming in part from inadequate staffing, lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, changing requirements, and security constraints. While some of these issues have been addressed, staffing and security remain major concerns. Additionally, the Army and its contractors have yet to agree on key terms and conditions, including the projected cost, on nearly $1.8 billion worth of reconstruction work that either has been completed or is well under way. Until contract terms are defined, cost risks for the government remain and contract cost control incentives are likely to be less effective.
- U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland’s Visit to Tripoli
July 28, 2021
- Sinaloa Cartel Drug Trafficker and Money Launderer Sentenced to Prison
January 11, 2022A drug trafficker and money launderer for the Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced yesterday to 188 months in prison for supervising the smuggling of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin from Mexico into the United States and the smuggling of drug proceeds from the United States to Mexico.
- Five Peruvians Extradited For Overseeing Call Centers That Threatened And Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Consumers
October 27, 2020Five residents of Lima, Peru, were extradited to the United States and made their initial appearances in Miami federal court, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.
- Seven North Carolina Tax Preparers Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS
January 12, 2021Seven Charlotte, North Carolina tax return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by preparing and filing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina, and Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
- Surface Transportation Security: TSA Has Taken Steps to Improve its Surface Inspector Program, but Lacks Performance Targets
July 30, 2020According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Surface Transportation Security Inspector Operations Plan (TSA’s plan), surface transportation security inspectors—known as surface inspectors—are to enter key details for program activities in the Performance and Results Information System (PARIS)—TSA’s system of record for all surface inspector activities. In December 2017, GAO reported that TSA was unable to fully account for surface inspector time spent assisting with non-surface transportation modes, including aviation, due to data limitations in PARIS, and recommended TSA address these limitations. Since GAO’s report, TSA updated PARIS to better track surface inspector activities in non-surface transportation modes. Transportation Security Administration Surface Inspectors Assess Security of a Bus System TSA’s plan outlines steps to align work plan activities with risk assessment findings. However, TSA cannot comprehensively ensure surface inspectors are targeting program resources to high-risk modes and locations because it does not consistently collect information on entity mode or location in PARIS. According to officials, TSA plans to update PARIS and program guidance to require inspectors to include this information in the system by the end of fiscal year 2020. TSA’s plan outlines performance measures for the surface inspector program, but does not establish quantifiable performance targets for all activities. Targets indicate how well an agency aspires to perform and could include, for example, entity scores on TSA security assessments, among others. By developing targets, TSA would be better positioned to assess the surface inspector program’s progress in achieving its objective of increasing security among surface transportation entities. Surface transportation—freight and passenger rail, mass transit, highway, maritime and pipeline systems—is vulnerable to global terrorism and other threats. TSA is the federal agency primarily responsible for securing surface transportation systems. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires TSA to submit a plan to guide its Surface Transportation Security Inspectors Program. The Act includes a provision for GAO to review TSA’s plan. This report examines the extent to which TSA’s plan and its implementation: (1) address known data limitations related to tracking surface inspector activities among non-surface modes, (2) align surface operations with risk assessments, and how, if at all, TSA ensures inspectors prioritize activities in high-risk modes and locations, and (3) establish performance targets for the surface inspector program. GAO reviewed TSA’s June 2019 plan and analyzed data on inspector activities for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. GAO interviewed officials in headquarters and a non-generalizable sample of 7 field offices selected based on geographical location and the presence of high-risk urban areas. GAO recommends that TSA establish quantifiable performance targets for the surface inspector program’s activity-level performance measures. DHS concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or McNeilT@gao.gov.
September 26, 2020There are currently no [Read More…]
- North Carolina Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS
December 3, 2020Two Durham, North Carolina, return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of the Middle District of North Carolina.
- Department Press Briefing – December 13, 2021
December 13, 2021Jalina Porter, Principal [Read More…]
- Covid-19 Contracting: Observations on Federal Contracting in Response to the Pandemic
July 30, 2020Government-wide contract obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic totaled $17.8 billion as of June 11, 2020. Four agencies accounted for 85 percent of total COVID-19 contract obligations (see figure). This report provides available baseline data on COVID-19 federal contract obligations. Contract Obligations in Response to COVID-19 by Department, as of June 11, 2020 About 62 percent of federal contract obligations were for goods to treat COVID-19 patients and protect health care workers—including ventilators, gowns, and N95 respirators. Less than half of total contract obligations were identified as competed (see figure). Top Five Goods and Services and Percentage of Obligations Competed, as of June 11, 2020 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 30, 2020, the United States has documented more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and more than 125,000 deaths due to COVID-19. To facilitate the U.S. response to the pandemic, numerous federal agencies have awarded contracts for critical goods and services to support federal, state, and local response efforts. GAO’s prior work on federal emergency response efforts has found that contracts play a key role, and that contracting during an emergency can present unique challenges as officials can face pressure to provide goods and services as quickly as possible. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included a provision for GAO to provide a comprehensive review of COVID-19 federal contracting. This is the first in a series of GAO reports on this issue. This report describes, among other objectives, key characteristics of federal contracting obligations awarded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO work will examine agencies’ planning and management of contracts awarded in response to the pandemic, including agencies’ use of contracting flexibilities provided by the CARES Act. GAO analyzed data from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation on agencies’ reported government-wide contract obligations for COVID-19 through June 11, 2020. GAO also analyzed contract obligations reported at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs—the highest obligating agencies. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or MakM@gao.gov.
- Aircraft Noise: Better Information Sharing Could Improve Responses to Washington, D.C. Area Helicopter Noise Concerns
January 7, 2021According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA’s ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA’s and operators’ approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents’ inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA’s approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO’s recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
- Two Individuals Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud
October 13, 2021A Georgia man was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining $285,742 through a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
- U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund: Estimated Lump Sum Catch-Up Payments
August 12, 2021What GAO Found GAO estimated that lump sum catch-up payments to 5,364 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents would total about $2.7 billion. This amount would result in the proportion of payments provided for claims submitted by 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents to be equal to the proportion of payments provided for claims submitted by 9/11 family members (for example, a nondependent sibling or parent). GAO estimated that the amount of payments that 9/11 family members received (about $1.2 billion), as a percentage of their net eligible claims during the first two rounds of the Fund distributions (about $19.7 billion), was 5.8573 percent. GAO applied the percentage to the net eligible claims of 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents (about $45.3 billion) to estimate the lump sum catch-up payments. GAO also estimated that, if authorized, lump sum catch-up payments to these 5,364 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents would vary widely based on their net eligible claims and other factors, such as court awarded compensation related to the act of international terrorism that gave rise to a claimant’s final judgement. Below is a summary of how estimated lump sum catch-up payments could vary across all groups: Victims: The minimum amount is $45,056 and maximum amount is $1,171,460, with an average of $445,634; Spouses: The minimum amount is $281,601 and maximum amount is $732,163, with an average of $675,423; and Dependents: The minimum amount is $179,644 and maximum amount is $497,871, with an average of $432,303. Why GAO Did This Study In 2015, the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act (Terrorism Act) was enacted, which established the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (Fund) to provide compensation for persons injured in acts of international state-sponsored terrorism. The Fund, which is administered by the Special Master and supported by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel, has allocated approximately $3.3 billion in three payment rounds, which began in 2017, 2019, and 2020. In 2019, the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund Clarification Act amended the groups of individuals who were eligible to claim payments from the Fund. These changes affected the amounts that 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents could claim from the Fund, compared with 9/11 family members. The Sudan Claims Resolution Act includes provisions for GAO to (1) estimate lump sum catch-up payments to eligible 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents, that would result in the percentage of claims received from the Fund being equal to the percentage of claims of 9/11 family members received from the Fund; and (2) estimate amounts of lump sum catch-up payments for 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed relevant documents, interviewed DOJ officials who support the Fund, and analyzed Fund data. In March 2021 and June 2021, GAO published Federal Register notices requesting public comments on GAO’s methodology for calculating lump sum catch-up payments and estimated lump sum catch-up payments. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or McNeilT@gao.gov and Jason Bair at (202) 512-4128 or BairJ@gao.gov.
- The Department of State Breaks Ground on the New U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Thailand
September 26, 2020
- Public Designation of Oligarch and Former Ukrainian Public Official Ihor Kolomoyskyy Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption
March 5, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Call with Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla
January 19, 2022
- Netherlands Travel Advisory
September 26, 2020Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
- How NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Reach the Red Planet’s Surface
September 26, 2020The small craft will [Read More…]
- Justice Department Requires Divestitures in Lactalis’s Acquisition of Kraft Heinz’s Natural Cheese Business in the United States
November 10, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it will require B.S.A. S.A. (Lactalis) and The Kraft Heinz Company (Kraft Heinz) to divest Kraft Heinz’s Athenos and Polly-O businesses in order to proceed with Lactalis’s proposed acquisition of Kraft Heinz’s natural cheese business in the United States.