A federal indictment was unsealed today charging 21 alleged members and associates of the Simon City Royals gang with a racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, narcotics trafficking, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and money laundering.
- Private Water Utilities: Actions Needed to Enhance Ownership Data
April 26, 2021What GAO Found Available information on private for-profit drinking water utilities shows that 14 publicly traded companies served customers in 33 states in 2019. However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) primary source of publicly available information on U.S. drinking water utilities—the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)—contains ownership information that is limited by inaccuracies. EPA collects information in SDWIS from states but does not include definitions for utility ownership types in its data entry guidance. In addition, EPA takes actions to verify some of the data, but does not verify or correct ownership data. EPA and others use SDWIS for purposes such as analyzing Safe Drinking Water Act violations by type of utility ownership. Such analysis can help EPA and states build utility capacity to provide safe drinking water. By defining ownership types, and verifying and correcting the data in SDWIS, EPA could help ensure the data are accurate and reliable for users of the data and the public. EPA provided over $500 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) assistance to for-profit utilities for 226 projects to help ensure delivery of safe drinking water from January 2010 through June 2020. EPA’s Drinking Water SRF program, created under the Safe Drinking Water Act, provides grants to states for low- or no-interest loans or grants to drinking water utilities for infrastructure projects. The amount provided to for-profit water utilities is small, about 2 percent of the $26.5 billion provided overall from January 2010 through June 2020. States That Provided Private For-Profit Utilities with Assistance from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, since January 2010 Why GAO Did This Study The roughly 50,000 drinking water utilities in the United States face steep costs—more than $470 billion over the next 20 years, according to EPA estimates—to repair and replace drinking water infrastructure. These costs are passed on to customers through water rates. States regulate the rates charged by privately owned water utilities. EPA has responsibilities to implement programs to further the health protection objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act. GAO was asked to review private for-profit drinking water utilities and rates. This report examines, among other things, (1) information available from EPA and other sources about the number and characteristics of private for-profit water utilities in the United States, and (2) Drinking Water SRF assistance provided to private for-profit water utilities. GAO reviewed EPA SDWIS data, Drinking Water SRF data, and Global Water Intelligence data, as well as EPA’s and others’ documents. GAO also interviewed EPA and water utility stakeholders.
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- K-12 Education: School Districts Need Better Information to Help Improve Access for People with Disabilities
July 30, 2020Two-thirds of U.S. public school districts have schools with physical barriers that may limit access for people with disabilities, according to GAO’s survey of district officials. Barriers, such as a lack of accessible door hardware and steep ramps, can make it challenging for students, teachers, and others with disabilities to use public school facilities (see fig.). In 55 schools across six states, the most common areas with barriers GAO observed were restrooms, interior doorways, and classrooms. GAO also observed barriers related to safety and security. For example, for security, some schools had installed double-door vestibules with limited maneuvering space that could trap people who use wheelchairs. Examples of Doorway and Auditorium Barriers GAO Observed in Schools Note: Barriers presented in this figure potentially limit physical access for people with disabilities, but taken alone, would not necessarily establish whether a legal violation has occurred. An estimated 70 percent of districts had large-scale renovations, small-scale upgrades, or accessibility evaluations planned in the next 3 calendar years, but frequently cited funding constraints as a challenge to these efforts. Districts also identified the need to prioritize projects that keep buildings operational, such as roofing and heating projects. In addition, GAO’s survey, observations during site visits, and interviews with national disability groups revealed a tension between making safety and security upgrades and improving physical accessibility. The Department of Justice (Justice) has not provided technical assistance on physical accessibility in schools, and GAO’s surveys indicate such help is needed. Justice has authority to provide information on interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), including for public schools, and it has provided technical assistance regarding other public facilities, such as stadiums. In addition, Justice, along with the Department of Education (Education) and other federal agencies, recently launched a new website on school safety, but it does not include specific information on how to improve accessibility of public school facilities or provide information on ADA requirements in the context of school safety upgrades. Without such information, federal agencies may miss opportunities to help ensure that people with disabilities have safe and secure access to public school facilities. National reports have raised concerns about the physical accessibility of public school facilities for people with disabilities. These facilities serve important roles as schools, voting locations, and emergency shelters, among other things. GAO was asked to examine the physical accessibility of public school facilities. This report examines the extent to which (1) school districts have school facilities with physical barriers that may limit access for people with disabilities, (2) districts plan to improve the accessibility of school facilities and the challenges they face, and (3) Justice and Education assist districts and states in improving school facilities’ physical accessibility. GAO conducted a nationally representative survey of school districts; surveyed states and the District of Columbia; examined 55 schools across six states, selected for variation in size and other characteristics; reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; and interviewed federal, state, and school district officials, and national disability groups. GAO recommends that Justice work with Education to (1) provide information specific to accessibility of public school facilities and (2) provide information on federal accessibility requirements in the context of public school safety and security. Justice neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or email@example.com.
- Further Sanctions on Entities Trading in or Transporting Iranian Petrochemicals
March 18, 2020
- Employee Benefits Security Administration: Enforcement Efforts to Protect Participants’ Rights in Employer-Sponsored Retirement and Health Benefit Plans
May 28, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration’s (EBSA) enforcement focuses on encouraging retirement and health plans to comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, and restoring benefits that were improperly withheld from plan participants. To identify violations, EBSA investigates benefit plans and their service providers. Over two-thirds of investigation leads are identified by EBSA staff. EBSA prioritizes investigating cases that may result in large recoveries or affect many participants, such as restored retirement plan contributions or payment for incorrectly denied medical claims. When agreement cannot be reached, investigators can refer civil cases to DOL’s Office of the Solicitor for civil litigation. Criminal cases are referred to Department of Justice. In fiscal year 2020, almost 84 percent of investigations were civil and more than 16 percent were criminal, resulting in over $3 billion in payments to participants and plans. EBSA uses a range of strategies to improve its investigative processes and seeks to ensure enforcement quality through training and oversight. For example, EBSA makes efforts to target investigations for greater impact, such as a 2013 change to prioritize cases with the potential to affect many participants and recover significant assets. As EBSA pursued more complex and technical investigations, the number of closed cases decreased, while monetary recoveries increased (see figure). To ensure investigation quality, EBSA provides training, documents procedures, and reviews open and closed cases to evaluate whether investigation procedures have been followed. Number of EBSA Investigations Closed and Monetary Recoveries, Fiscal Years 2011-2020 The COVID-19 pandemic created a number of immediate and long-term challenges for EBSA and benefit plans. For example, according to stakeholders, plans were initially concerned about how to implement provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, but those concerns were addressed as the agency issued FAQs and notices. Similarly, EBSA officials reported that court closures temporarily slowed criminal cases, but as virtual hearings increased, litigation resumed. Stakeholders and EBSA officials also described potential long-term challenges, including difficulties locating the many participants who may have left a job due to the pandemic and may be unaware they left behind retirement funds. Why GAO Did This Study Millions of Americans rely on employer benefits for their health care and future financial security. Private sector retirement plans are a key source of income for many retirees and employer-sponsored group health plans cover over one-half of all Americans. Consequently, effective oversight and enforcement are critically important to ensure the integrity of the private employee benefit system, especially in light of the economic and health effects of COVID-19 on American workers and their families. EBSA is charged with protecting the rights of participants in employer-sponsored benefit plans. As of fiscal year 2020, this included about 154 million participants in 722,000 retirement plans and 2.5 million health plans with combined assets of over $10.7 trillion. This report examines (1) how EBSA manages its enforcement process, (2) EBSA’s strategies to improve investigative processes and ensure enforcement quality, and (3) the immediate and long-term challenges of COVID-19 for EBSA and private sector retirement and health plans. GAO analyzed EBSA data and documents; and federal laws, regulations, and guidance, including the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. GAO interviewed officials from EBSA’s national office and three regional offices, selected for variation in investigations, and locations as well as stakeholders from nine organizations knowledgeable about benefits compliance requirements, the employer-sponsored benefit industry, and participants’ benefit plan experiences. For more information, contact Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Warfighter Support: DOD Should Have a More Comprehensive Approach for Addressing Urgent Warfighter Needs
August 25, 2021This testimony discusses the challenges that the Department of Defense (DOD) faces in fulfilling urgent operational needs identified by our warfighters. Over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces have encountered changing adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures, which challenged DOD to quickly develop and provide new equipment and new capabilities to address evolving threats. Further, U.S. troops faced shortages of critical items, including body armor, tires, and batteries. DOD’s goal is to provide solutions as quickly as possible to meet urgent warfighter needs to prevent mission failure or loss of life. To meet its urgent needs, DOD had to look beyond traditional acquisition procedures, expand the use of existing processes, and develop new processes and entities designed to be as responsive as possible to urgent warfighter requests. In addition to requests for equipment from DOD’s existing stocks, warfighters have requested new capabilities, such as: technology to counter improvised explosive devices (IED); technology related to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to provide increased situational awareness; and equipment related to command and control to enhance operations on the battlefield. In meeting urgent needs, it is important for DOD to efficiently use the department’s financial resources. DOD has spent billions of dollars over the past several years to address urgent warfighter needs. Our past work on weapons acquisition has shown that the department has often pursued more programs than its resources can support. Additionally, our past work also has shown that DOD has had difficulty translating needs into programs, which often has led to cost growth and delayed delivery of needed capabilities to the warfighter. Today, we are publicly releasing a report that addresses (1) what entities exist within DOD for responding to urgent operational needs, and the extent to which there is fragmentation, overlap, or duplication; (2) the extent to which DOD has a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs activities; and (3) the extent to which DOD has evaluated the potential for consolidations of its various activities and entities. This statement will first briefly discuss challenges we reported in April 2010 that affected the overall responsiveness of DOD’s urgent needs processes and then highlight the key findings and recommendations of today’s report. Today’s report contributed to our findings in another report being released today that addresses opportunities to reduce potential duplication in government programs.We reported in April 2010 on several challenges that affected DOD’s responsiveness to urgent needs: (1) Training: We found challenges in training personnel that process urgent needs requests. For example, we found that while the Army required selected officers to attend training on how to address requirements and identify resources for Army forces, officers at the brigade level responsible for drafting and submitting Army and joint urgent needs requests–and those at the division level responsible for reviewing the requests prior to submission for headquarters approval–were not likely to receive such training.(2) Funding: We found that funding was not always available when needed to acquire and field solutions to joint urgent needs. This result occurred in part because the Office of the Secretary of Defense had not given any one organization primary responsibility for determining when to implement the department’s statutory rapid acquisition authority or to execute timely funding decisions. (3) Technical maturity and complexity: We found that attempts to meet urgent needs with immature technologies or with solutions that are technologically complex could lead to longer time frames for fielding solutions to urgent needs. Also, we found that DOD guidance was unclear about who is responsible for determining whether technologically complex solutions fall within the scope of DOD’s urgent needs processes. In our report being released today, we identified cases of fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication of efforts of DOD’s urgent needs processes and entities. However, the department is hindered in its ability to identify key improvements to its urgent needs processes because it does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its efforts. Many of these entities were created, in part, because the department had not anticipated the accelerated pace of change in enemy tactics and techniques that ultimately heightened the need for a rapid response to the large number of urgent needs requests submitted by the combatant commands and military services. While many entities started as ad hoc organizations, several have been permanently established. DOD has taken some steps to improve its fulfillment of urgent needs. These steps include developing policy to guide joint urgent need efforts, establishing a Rapid Fielding Directorate to rapidly transition innovative concepts into critical capabilities, and working to establish a senior oversight council to help synchronize DOD’s efforts. Despite these actions, the department does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its activities to address capability gaps identified by warfighters in-theater. In addition to not having a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs efforts, DOD has not conducted a comprehensive evaluation of its urgent needs processes and entities to identify opportunities for consolidation. Given the overlap and potential for duplication we identified, coupled with similar concerns raised by other studies, there may be opportunities for DOD to further improve its urgent needs processes through consolidation. In the report we publicly release today, we make several recommendations to promote a more comprehensive approach to planning, management, and oversight of DOD’s fulfillment of urgent needs. In summary, we are recommending that: (1) DOD develop and promulgate DOD-wide guidance across all urgent needs processes that establishes baseline policy for the fulfillment of urgent needs, clearly defines common terms, roles, responsibilities, and authorities, designates a focal point to lead DOD’s urgent needs efforts, and directs the DOD components to establish minimum urgent needs processes and requirements; and (2) DOD’s Chief Management Officer evaluate potential options for consolidation to reduce overlap, duplication, and fragmentation, and take appropriate action.
- Suriname Independence Day
November 25, 2021
- NASA Invites Public to Share Excitement of Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Launch
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- United States Takes Action To Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida
January 12, 2021
- Financial Audit: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds’ 2020 and 2019 Financial Statements
February 18, 2021GAO found (1) the financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund (FRF) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, and 2019, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) although internal controls could be improved, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the DIF and to the FRF as of December 31, 2020; and (3) with respect to the DIF and to the FRF, no reportable instances of noncompliance for 2020 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, FDIC stated that it was pleased to receive unmodified opinions on the DIF’s and the FRF’s financial statements. In regard to the significant deficiency in internal control over contract payment review processes, FDIC stated that it began taking steps to address this issue and will work to enhance control activities and expand monitoring capabilities in this area. Further, FDIC stated that it recognizes the essential role a strong internal control program plays in an agency achieving its mission. FDIC added that its commitment to sound financial management has been and will remain a top priority. Section 17 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, requires GAO to audit the financial statements of the DIF and of the FRF annually. In addition, the Government Corporation Control Act requires that FDIC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and authorizes GAO to audit the statements. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or email@example.com.
- Iraqi-U.S. Cost-Sharing: Iraq Has a Cumulative Budget Surplus, Offering the Potential for Further Cost-Sharing
August 25, 2021Since 2003, the United States has reported obligating $642 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and provided about $24 billion for training, equipment, and other services for Iraqi security forces. To assist Congress in overseeing efforts to encourage the Iraqi government to contribute more toward the cost of securing and stabilizing Iraq, this report provides information on (1) the amount and availability of Iraq’s budget surplus or deficit, (2) the amount of Iraq’s financial deposit balances, and (3) the extent to which Iraq has spent its financial resources on security costs. To conduct this audit, GAO analyzed Iraqi financial data, reviewed U.S. and Iraqi documents, and interviewed U.S. and Iraqi officials.GAO analysis of Iraqi government data showed that Iraq generated an estimated cumulative budget surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009. This estimate is consistent with the method that Iraq uses to calculate its fiscal position. Adjusting for $40.3 billion in estimated outstanding advances as of September 2009 reduces the amount of available surplus funds to $11.8 billion. In April 2010, a senior Ministry of Finance official stated that advances should be deducted from the budget surplus because they are committed for future expenditures or have been paid out. According to this official and Board of Supreme Audit reports on Iraq’s financial statements, advances include funds for letters of credit, advance payments on domestic contracts, and other advances. However, Iraq’s Board of Supreme Audit has raised concerns that weaknesses in accounting for advances could result in the misappropriation of government funds and inaccurate reporting of expenditures. Furthermore, the composition of some of these advances is unclear; about 40 percent of the outstanding advances through 2008 are defined as “other temporary advances.” Under the terms of a February 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrangement, Iraq agreed to prepare a report on its outstanding advances, which will identify those advances that are recoverable and could be used for future spending, and set a time schedule for their recovery. This Iraqi report is to be completed by September 30, 2010. Another means of assessing Iraq’s fiscal position is to examine its financial deposit balances. Iraqi government data and an independent audit report show that, through the end of 2009, Iraq had accumulated between $15.3 billion and $32.2 billion in financial deposit balances held at the Central Bank of Iraq, the Development Fund for Iraq in New York, and state-owned banks in Iraq. This range reflects a discrepancy between the amount of government-sector deposits reported by the Central Bank of Iraq to the IMF and the amount that the Ministry of Finance asserts is available for government spending. In November 2009, the Ministry of Finance reclassified $16.9 billion in state-owned banks as belonging to state-owned enterprises and trusts, leaving $15.3 billion of $32.2 billion available to the Iraqi government for other spending. The IMF is seeking clarification on the amount of financial deposits that is available for government spending. Under the terms of Iraq’s 2010 arrangement with the IMF, the Ministry of Finance is required to complete a review of all central government accounts and return any idle balances received from the budget to the central Iraqi Treasury by March 31, 2010. As of August 2010, according to the IMF, this review was still under way. Iraqi government data show that Iraq’s security ministries–the Ministries of Defense and Interior–increased their spending from 2005 through 2009 and set aside about $5.5 billion for purchases through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. However, over this 5-year period, these ministries did not use between $2.5 billion and $5.2 billion of their budgeted funds that could have been used to address security needs. The administration is requesting $2 billion in additional U.S. funding in its fiscal year 2011 budget request to support the training and equipping of Iraq’s military and police. GAO believes that Congress should consider Iraq’s available financial resources when reviewing the administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request and any future funding requests for securing and stabilizing Iraq. Also, GAO recommends that the Departments of State and the Treasury work with the Iraqi government to further identify available resources.
- Helicopter Crash in Egypt
November 13, 2020
- North Carolina Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Returns
August 2, 2021A Winston-Salem, North Carolina, tax preparer pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return and to filing a false personal income tax return.
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June 13, 2021
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- Malta National Day
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- Federal-State Clean Water Act Settlement Resolves Sewer Overflow Violations in Berkeley County, West Virginia
November 17, 2021The Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District in West Virginia will pay a $518,400 penalty, make extensive improvements to its sewer and stormwater systems, and implement a state-directed supplemental environmental project valued at $1.14 million under a settlement with federal and state authorities, the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced today.
- Man Purchased Lamborghini After Receiving $3.9 Million in PPP Loans
February 10, 2021A Florida man pleaded guilty today for fraudulently obtaining approximately $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and using those funds, in part, to purchase a $318,000 Lamborghini sports car for himself. Authorities seized the Lamborghini and $3.4 million from the bank accounts of David T. Hines, 29, of Miami, at the time of his arrest. Hines pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14.
- Crumbling Foundations: Extent of Homes with Defective Concrete Is Not Fully Known and Federal Options to Aid Homeowners Are Limited
July 30, 2020As of December 2019, at least 1,600 homes in Connecticut had confirmed pyrrhotite but the total number of affected homes is likely higher. According to one estimate, 4,000–6,000 more homes in Connecticut could develop crumbling foundations due to pyrrhotite. Affected homeowners may face total remediation costs of $150,000 or more and drops in property values of 25 percent or more. Connecticut established funding to provide homeowners with up to $175,000 towards the cost of foundation replacement, but affected homeowners are typically responsible for about one-third of total repair costs (which can include costs for replacing driveways and porches damaged during foundation replacement). Current funding is expected to assist 1,034 homeowners. Pyrrhotite Damage to a Basement and a Home Being Repaired Due to Pyrrhotite Damage GAO found that highly affected towns lost more than $1.6 million in tax revenue in 2018 due to lost assessment value of the houses affected by pyrrhotite, but town officials told us the losses have not yet significantly affected their budgets. However, officials were concerned that pyrrhotite could have long-term effects on their towns if the number of affected homes increased or homes were not remediated. GAO also found that homes located in highly affected towns and built when pyrrhotite-containing concrete was used sold for significantly less, on average, than similar homes in less-affected towns. Stakeholders told GAO that defaults and foreclosures related to pyrrhotite have been limited to date. Some federal funds have already been used for pyrrhotite testing and GAO identified eight additional federal programs that could be used to help mitigate financial impacts on homeowners. However, most of these programs have eligibility or funding restrictions that limit their potential for this purpose. Stakeholders with whom GAO spoke suggested other federal responses—in particular, declaring pyrrhotite damage a major disaster or establishing a federally backed insurance product. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined that pyrrhotite damage did not qualify as a natural catastrophe, and a federally backed insurance program may not be feasible since it would serve a small population with high expected costs. Certain homes built in northeastern Connecticut and central Massachusetts between 1983 and 2015 have concrete foundations containing the mineral pyrrhotite. Pyrrhotite expands when it is exposed to water and oxygen and, over time, concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite may crack and crumble. The Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 included a provision for GAO to study the financial impact of pyrrhotite. This report describes (1) what is known about the number of homes affected by pyrrhotite in the region; (2) the financial impact of pyrrhotite on homeowners; (3) the financial effects on towns, local housing markets, and the federal government; and (4) federal options to mitigate pyrrhotite’s financial impact on affected homeowners. GAO analyzed data from state, local, and private entities about the extent of pyrrhotite in foundations and associated costs, and federal actions taken in response to pyrrhotite. GAO also interviewed federal, state, and local officials; homeowners; and other stakeholders such as banks and real estate agents. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.