For the recipients of federal matching funds under the Obama Administration’s Recovery Act, the future seems pretty rosy. They have great projects that will keep their employees working and their customers happy – and the government is paying for half. What’s not to like!
Well, as sure as the New York Yankees will still be playing baseball in October, some recipients eventually will find themselves having to face one of the newest bureaucratic inventions out of Washington – The RAT Board. Along with the dollars, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is a key part of the Recovery Act, and it has teeth. (See, Section 1521 of the Recovery Act.)
The RAT Board’s responsibility is to conduct audits and reviews of spending by grant recipients “in order to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.” Included in its authority is the power to subpoena private citizens and “conduct necessary inquiries.” But wait, you say; I thought the agency inspectors general (IG) did that? They do, and they will continue to carry out those oversight functions. The RAT Board might be termed a “super IG,” whose powers not only include those of the traditional IG, but also the authority to ask “that an [agency’s] inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.”
Recipients of Recovery Act funds can avoid scrutiny from the RAT Board by being diligent in their compliance with the Act’s reporting requirements. Section 1512 of the Act sets out the Congressional expectations on recipient reporting. Guidance on how those requirements will be implemented was issued by the Office of Management and Budget on June 22, 2009. http://www.recovery.gov/?q=node/579. That guidance is detailed and lengthy, and recipients are advised to have robust reporting tools readily available, including software compatible to OMB’s reporting format.
Gregory Fess currently consults for energy and utility companies on ARRA grant applications and contract negotiations. He has been Chief counsel at the DOE and several private companies.