News / USA

US Inspectors General Audit Government Business to Ensure Efficiency

US Inspectors General Audit Government Business to Ensure Efficiencyi
X
November 12, 2013 10:03 PM
The U.S. government has a system in place that oversees department and agency actions, and also watches over private sector companies that are contracted to the government. The goal is to fight corruption, and make government programs more efficient and effective. VOA’s Jeffrey Young looks at the role played by Inspectors General.
The U.S. government has a system in place that oversees department and agency actions, and also watches over private sector companies that are contracted to the government. The goal is to fight corruption, and make government programs more efficient and effective.  The role played by Inspectors General is pivotal.

This man watches over every penny of the more than $940 billion budgeted to the U.S. government’s massive Department of Health and Human Services, also known as HHS. His office is within HHS, but ultimately, he works for Congress - and for the American people.

He’s Daniel Levinson, the HHS Inspector General.  He and his IG counterparts in every U.S. government department and agency search for corruption, and also scrutinize how programs for the public, as well as internal operations, are being run.

“We audit the money that comes through the department. We investigate any possible wrongdoing as a result of looking at those figures, to see whether there might be criminal activity involved, and if there is, to prosecute those who would be engaged in that activity. And thirdly, we look to see whether we can improve the programs as they operate, and inform the wider health care provider community about how to provide those services better,” said Levinson

With billions of U.S. tax dollars spent on health care and programs, the potential for fraud and corruption is huge. Levinson reports that over the past five years, his audits and investigations have resulted in nearly 3,800 criminal convictions, nearly 2,000 civil settlements, and recovering more than $23 billion.

Inspectors General are appointed by the president, and report to Congress about their department’s or agency’s activities. They also inform the department secretaries or agency heads in the areas in which they work, though they are not subordinate to them.

Maintaining that autonomy is vital according to the government watchdog group Project On Government Oversight's Michael Smallberg. "Ideally, we think there should be an adversarial relationship between the inspector general and the agency head. Not antagonistic, not openly confrontational, but there should be a healthy distance between the two.”

A vivid example of that separation came when Congress, in response to the 2008 financial crisis, created the Troubled Asset Relief Program - or TARP. The IG overseeing TARP, Neil Barofsky, publicly criticized Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, saying the Secretary’s implementation of the program favored Wall Street instead of the public.

“The only way that TARP got passed, the only way it got the votes necessary in Congress to become law, was promises by the Treasury Department and the President that this would be a program that would not just help the big banks, but also help those struggling homeowners. When President Barack Obama announced what he was going to do, he said up to four million people would stay in their homes because of this program. And, that was just an absolute failure.”

While the TARP program eventually provided some homeowner assistance, Barofsky says it has never fulfilled its promises to Congress. His battles with Geithner prompted him to resign in March 2011, but the position itself continues - with a new inspector general.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More