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Devaney: Stimulus Waste and Fraud 'Inevitable'

By Ed O'Keefe
Earl Devaney
Accountability Board Chair Earl Devaney speaks during a late February meeting at the White House. (Photo by Reuters)

The official tasked with overseeing the economic stimulus funds says it's "inevitable" that taxpayer funds will be lost due to waste, fraud and abuse.

Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board (RAT Board), met Thursday with state officials responsible for distributing the federal funds and said he will "work tirelessly to reduce those losses to the lowest level humanly possible."

Devaney's comments came during a day-long White House-sponsored conference intended to instruct state officials on how they should use the billions of dollars from the stimulus package. Officials from every state but Idaho attended the meetings. Officials announced that 16 states will receive two-thirds of the stimulus funding: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, as well as Washington, D.C.

"I'm afraid that there may be a naïve impression that given the amount of transparency and accountability called for by this act, no or little fraud will occur," Devaney said, according to a summary prepared by reporters in attendance.

"Obviously the challenge for all of us, especially those charged with oversight, will be to significantly minimize such loss," he said. "My promise to all of you today is that my staff, members of the board and I will work tirelessly to reduce those losses to the lowest level humanly possible." The Interior Department's former inspector general, he helped unearth the Jack Abramoff scandal.

He said the widely-promoted Recovery.gov Web site will not meet his transparency or accessibility standards for at least a year. Devaney also urged federal and state officials to avoid sending mixed signals with its online outreach.

"We need to all be playing off the same sheet of music. If I'm going to be held accountable for this Web site, and there's a graph in there that talks about jobs created or saved, it's going to be as accurate as I can get it."

Devaney also admitted he's not a big fan of his oversight board's RAT acronym. Regardless, it will connect the states with the federal government's IG offices and work with them to avoid mismanagement and corruption.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 12, 2009; 9:45 PM ET
Categories:  Oversight  
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Comments

Putting waste and fraud in the same sentence is deceptive. One person's waste is another person's value.

Fraud on the other hand is a clear crime and should be combatted and prosecuted without exception to the Nth degree. Rules should be clear, in plain language, and leave little room for interpretation. When they are you can stop fraud. When they are not "creative interpretation" by accountants and lawyers allow fraud to raise it's ugly head.

Be clear, be open, and be honest. Then we will have no problems with how any of it is spent.

Posted by: Tawodi | March 13, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

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