Two GOP representatives are demanding answers from the Department of the Interior (DOI) after a report revealed the potential for widespread fraud in $815 million worth of DOI grants awarded in 2014 and 2015, a Tuesday letter read.
Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas want documents detailing the procedures of a DOI program that awards grants to federal agencies for the purpose of purchasing land, according to the letter.
Bishop is the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, while Westerman serves as chairman on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The two have joined to pursue the possible fraud revealed in an Aug. 2 DOI Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report.
The OIG report revealed that less than half of grant recipients reported back to the DOI on how the funds were used, an act required under the grant program’s terms.
“We found that DOI does not centrally track information about grants for the purchase of land,” The OIG report summary read. “DOI is thus unable to identify how much grant money has been used to purchase land, how much land has been purchased, and whether that land is being used for its intended purpose.”
In one of the most egregious examples, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund received over $241 million over two years. That grant’s use was never reported back to the DOI nor did the DOI follow up with the grantees.
Bishop and Westerman are concerned unreported grant money from taxpayers may be used to repeat past abuses such as using grant money to build swimming pools and bars on federally protected land, the letter says.
The DOI has until Sept. 19 to come up the practices and procedures it uses to give out the grants and hand the documentation over to the House.
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