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1,900 investigations into stimulus money wrongdoing now underway

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Millions of dollars intended as stimulus money to aid small businesses, grow local economies and create jobs has since been discovered to have been misspent, wasted or defrauded. The $840 billion stimulus plan has been greatly compromised due to misuse, leading to increasing the federal deficit and national debt. Federal investigators now have 1,900 investigations in progress to see how that money was squandered.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Government watchdogs have already secured nearly 600 convictions and judgments against people and companies accused of misusing stimulus funds.

More than three years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress, the chief question now is how the money was managed early in the program. The investigations are certain to extend well into the next year as many the investigations reach their conclusion.

The total amount of money lost to fraud from the $840 billion stimulus program has been a paltry $11.1 million thus far. Vice President Joe Biden made reference to the figure as he defended the stimulus program from attacks from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan during the vice presidential debate last week.

The $11.1 million only identifies money that is considered lost to fraud and does not include funds still under investigation or those recommended for reimbursement after audits identified misspending, officials say.

A senior official familiar with the ongoing investigations by inspector's generals at federal agencies told newspaper reporters that he expects that dollar amount only to grow larger.

"These cases often take months or years, and we've got hundreds open right now across the government so that number is going to go up, probably by a large amount over the next 18 months," the official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

Several inspectors' generals have announced new convictions, prosecutions or audits, a sign that some of the investigations are growing closer to conclusions and judgments.

Some examples on how stimulus dollars were squandered for personal gain include:

The Energy Department inspector general reported last week it discovered the California energy commission collected two duplicate payments under a stimulus program that costs taxpayers $678,000. Investigators suggested that the money should be repaid.

In addition, a Louisiana group that received stimulus funds for Head Start programs for children had inappropriately spent nearly $1.2 million in federal funds to construct a new building that wasn't approved by federal officials.

The Energy Department inspector general also warns in its most recent semiannual report that the Western Area Power Administration, which received $3.25 billion in borrowing authority to help build transmission lines under the stimulus law, is at risk of losing significant money on a transmission project for wind power in Montana that it funded.

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