Blocking GAO investigations into fraud and abuse in the federal government

Not satisfied with needlessly delaying FOIA requests by conservative linked organizations and telling Republicans they could “talk to the hand” when it came to their own investigations, the Obama administration also went out of its way to block access to documents by the politically neutral Government Accountability Office (GAO). Since 1921 the GAO has acted as Congress’s watchdog, exposing waste and abuse in the federal government and providing “timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonpartisan” to lawmakers.

In December 2009 it was revealed in The Hill that federal agencies had been “indefinitely delaying lawmaker-requested probes”. The GAO was often forced to wait months for information that according to Judicial Watch “should be readily available”. The State Department ignored repeated GAO requests for a list of passport holders who were delinquent in paying their taxes or registered sex offenders. In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, acting GAO head Gene Dodaro said “over the past year we have made numerous attempts to negotiate access to this data … the department still has not complied with our access requests.”

Another request by the GAO for the National Directory of New Hires from the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) was thwarted by the Obama administration. The intention was to compare names in the directory with those on federal disability, a “red flag” when it came to disability fraud. Not only did HHS refuse to turn over the directory, they also demanded the states ignore the lawmaker’s requests as well. In emails sent in April 2010 and December 2010, HHS warned states that newly hired data was not to be distributed to Congress under any circumstances and that “any work expense incurred to respond to GAO’s request” would not be compensated by HHS.

In a March 2011 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding disability fraud, Sen. Susan Collins wrote “I am stunned that HHS appears to be thumbing its nose at Congressional oversight and GAO’s legitimate investigations. This Administration pledged transparency and I strongly urge HHS to live up to this promise by complying, and demanding that states comply, with GAO’s investigation.”

Because of trumped up “privacy concerns” by HHS taxpayers remain on the hook for billions a year in fraudulent disability payments.


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