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More from: February 24, 2022

  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability
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  • Acting Assistant Secretary of State Joey Hood Travels to Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait
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  • Department Of Justice Acts To Stop Sale Of “Nano Silver” Product As Treatment For Covid-19
    In Crime News
    The United States filed suit to halt the sale by a New Jersey entity of an unapproved “nano silver” product previously touted as a COVID-19 treatment, the Department of Justice announced today.

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  • Department of Justice Issues Annual Report to Congress on its Work to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued its Annual Report to Congress on Department of Justice Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse.  The report summarizes the department’s extensive efforts from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

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  • Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Endangered Species Act
    In Crime News
    A New York man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to selling a mounted leopard, which is an endangered species.

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  • Justice Department Settles Investigation into Language Barriers in the Hazleton Police Department
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with the Hazleton Police Department (HPD) and the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to help people with limited English proficiency (LEP) communicate with the police.

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  • Department Press Briefing – October 22, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Senate Disbursing Office: Procedures Related to 2021 Cash Count
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO performed agreed-upon procedures at the Senate Disbursing Office (SDO) consisting of (1) identifying the authorized and reported amount of cash accountability for the Secretary of the Senate, (2) counting all cash items that support the cash accountability level of the SDO, (3) counting all noncash items that support the cash accountability level of the SDO, and (4) agreeing the total amount counted to the authorized amount and reported amount of cash accountability. The total value of cash and noncash items counted on August 10, 2021, agreed to the cash accountability level that the SDO authorized and reported, except for a difference of $3.06, which SDO officials stated is a known overage that has accumulated over time. The Secretary of the Senate is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet the SDO’s objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The report provides the details on the agreed-upon procedures and the results of performing each of the procedures. The Secretary of the Senate in an email response stated that she had no comments on the draft report. Why GAO Did This Study The Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration requested that GAO perform procedures on the cash accountability level that the SDO authorized and reported. The cash accountability level represents the value of cash and noncash items for which the Secretary of the Senate, as disbursing officer for the U.S. Senate, is responsible. For more information, contact Hannah Padilla at (202) 512-5683 or padillah@gao.gov.

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  • University Researcher Pleads Guilty to Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
    In Crime News
    A rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme. Song Guo Zheng, 58, of Hilliard, appeared in federal court today, at which time his guilty plea was accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.

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  • Louisiana Doctor Indicted for Illegally Dispensing Over One Million Doses of Opioids and for $5.1 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, returned an indictment today charging a Louisiana physician for his role in distributing over 1,200,000 doses of Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone and morphine, outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, and for maintaining his clinic for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances. Today’s indictment also charges the physician with defrauding health care benefit programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, of more than $5,100,000, given that the opioid prescriptions were filled using health insurance benefits.

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  • Justice Department Issues Statement Announcing Decision to Appeal Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS
    In Crime News
    Brian M. Boynton, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, released the following statement:

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  • Elder Justice: HHS Could Do More to Encourage State Reporting on the Costs of Financial Exploitation
    In U.S GAO News
    Most state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies have been providing data on reports of abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including data on financial exploitation, although some faced challenges collecting and submitting these data. Since states began providing data to HHS’s National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) in 2017, they have been voluntarily submitting more detailed data on financial exploitation and perpetrators each year (see figure). However, some APS officials GAO interviewed in selected states said collecting data is difficult, in part, because victims are reluctant to implicate others, especially family members or other caregivers. APS officials also said submitting data to NAMRS was challenging initially because their data systems often did not align with NAMRS, and caseworkers may not have entered data in the system correctly. HHS has provided technical assistance and grant funding to help states address some of these challenges and help provide a better picture of the prevalence of the various types of financial exploitation and its perpetrators nationwide. Number of States That Provide Data on Financial Exploitation and Perpetrators to NAMRS Studies estimate some of the costs of financial exploitation to be in the billions, but comprehensive data on total costs do not exist and NAMRS does not currently collect cost data from APS agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found actual losses and attempts at elder financial exploitation reported by financial institutions nationwide were $1.7 billion in 2017. Also, studies published from 2016 to 2020 from three states—New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—estimated the costs of financial exploitation could be more than $1 billion in each state alone. HHS does not currently ask states to submit cost data from APS casefiles to NAMRS, though officials said they have begun to reevaluate NAMRS with state APS agencies and other interested parties, including researchers, and may consider asking states to submit cost data moving forward. Adding cost data to NAMRS could make a valuable contribution to the national picture of the cost of financial exploitation. Recognizing the importance of these data, some APS officials GAO interviewed said their states have developed new data fields or other tools to help caseworkers collect and track cost data more systematically. HHS officials said they plan to share this information with other states to make them aware of practices that could help them collect cost data, but they have not established a timeframe for doing so. Elder financial exploitation—the fraudulent or illegal use of an older adult’s funds or property—has far-reaching effects on victims and society. Understanding the scope of the problem has thus far been hindered by a lack of nationwide data. In 2013, HHS worked with states to create NAMRS, a voluntary system for collecting APS data on elder abuse, including financial exploitation. GAO was asked to study the extent to which NAMRS provides information on elder financial exploitation. This report examines (1) the status of HHS’s efforts to compile nationwide data through NAMRS on the extent of financial exploitation and the challenges involved, and (2) what is known about the costs of financial exploitation to victims and others. GAO analyzed NAMRS data from fiscal year 2016 through 2019 (the most recent available); reviewed relevant federal laws; and interviewed officials from HHS, other federal agencies, elder abuse prevention organizations, and researchers. GAO also reviewed APS documents and spoke with officials in eight states, selected based on their efforts to study, collect, and report cost data; and reviewed studies on financial exploitation. GAO recommends that HHS (1) work with state APS agencies to collect and submit cost data to NAMRS, and (2) develop a timeframe to share states’ tools to help collect cost data. HHS did not agree with the first recommendation, but GAO maintains that it is warranted, as discussed in the report. HHS agreed with the second recommendation. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.

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  • Justice Department Secures Agreement to Improve Web Accessibility for Public Transportation Users with Disabilities in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) to resolve alleged violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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  • Detention of Armenian Soldiers
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • The United States Strengthens Collaboration with the International Monetary Fund for Macroeconomic Management in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Mongolia
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Forbes Names U.S. Department of State as one of America’s Best-In-State Employers for 2021
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  • How Common Sense and Hard Work Saved Taxpayers
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  • Federal Spending Transparency: Opportunities Exist to Further Improve the Information Available on USAspending.gov
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) requires federal agencies to submit spending data for presentation on USAspending.gov. This public-facing website promotes federal spending transparency. Information displayed on USAspending.gov is sourced from agency financial systems and external government-wide reporting systems. GAO found that Treasury took additional steps to disclose known data limitations on USAspending.gov. GAO also identified some opportunities to further enhance the quality of the data displayed on the website and the business application controls that process the data. Timeliness. Most agencies submitted their data files by the deadlines established by Treasury. For the period ending March 31, 2021, 83 of 101 agencies submitted their data files on time. Completeness. Of the 101 agencies that submitted data for the period ending March 31, 2021, 19 did not include data in the required file that links budget and award information needed to effectively track federal spending. Accuracy. Data displayed on selected USAspending.gov web pages were largely consistent with agency-certified data, the USAspending.gov database, data displayed on other USAspending.gov web pages and data available for download. However, Treasury should help ensure that users of the data are able to distinguish whether information on award description describes the purpose of the base award or the purpose of a transaction or modification. Business process controls. Treasury could strengthen its business process controls to prevent or detect incomplete or inaccurate data displayed on USAspending.gov. For example, Treasury did not have a process to periodically inform agencies of unlinked data to help them reconcile and resolve data linkage differences, and the unique award key did not always result in a complete and accurate display of financial assistance award information. Implementation and use of data standards. Some data elements displayed on USAspending.gov were inconsistent with the established data standards. For example, agencies were required to report program activity information included in the program and financing schedules of the annual budget of the federal government. However, for the reporting period ending March 31, 2021, GAO found that hundreds of billions of dollars in obligations were reported with a program activity of “Unknown/Other.” Disclosure of known data limitations. Treasury disclosed known data limitations by adding an Agency Submission Statistics web page in response to user feedback requesting greater transparency into the completeness of agency data available on the website. However, Treasury does not disclose the effects of changes to reporting standards over time. In addition, disclosures on the linkage of financial and award information are unclear. Data governance. Agencies have made progress completing the data governance milestones outlined in the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently issued the 2021 Action Plan and is considering future efforts to monitor agency progress. USAspending.gov integrates data from many sources, including data that agencies submit and certify, and data from government-wide reporting systems (see figure). Agencies are required to submit seven data files, sourced from agency financial management systems and government-wide reporting systems, either monthly or quarterly. As seen below, agencies submit these files to Treasury’s DATA Act Broker (broker)—the system that collects and validates agency data—and attest to or certify the accuracy of the seven data files. The broker also obtains award and subaward data and information from government-wide reporting systems each evening to update USAspending.gov. This nightly update process also integrates new agency-certified data files after each monthly or quarterly submission due date. Additional data from other external sources is periodically updated in the broker and reflected on USAspending.gov. Process Overview and Sources of Data Displayed on USAspending.gov Why GAO Did This Study The DATA Act requires disclosure of federal agency expenditures and linking of agency spending information to federal program activities so that both policymakers and the public can more effectively track federal spending. The act also requires OMB and Treasury to establish data standards to provide consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data. The DATA Act contains a provision for GAO to report on the quality of the data. This is the third in a series of three reports on data quality. This report examines (1) the timeliness, completeness, and accuracy of the data displayed on USAspending.gov; (2) business process controls over the data; (3) the implementation and use of data standards; (4) the disclosure of known data quality limitations; and (5) the status of agency efforts to develop a data governance structure over DATA Act reporting. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed data from USAspending.gov, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed agency officials.

    [Read More…]

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