Republicans in the House of Representatives are urging the inspectors general of eleven cabinet- and sub-cabinet-level executive branch agencies to create plans that will allow Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds to be distributed without substantial risk of fraud.
The House Republicans cite fraud associated with COVID-19 relief programs, as well as failed broadband expansion programs, in their letters, one of which was obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller. The IIJA allocates $1.2 trillion in federal funds, with $550 billion of it newly approved. The rest is redirected from COVID-19 relief dollars that were not spent.
“As much as $400 billion, or half of the unemployment claims, could be fraudulent,” the Republicans write, citing the estimate of an online identity protection company. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds were also targeted by criminals, with the Department of Justice publicly charging more than 100 people with fraud and other charges in connection to misrepresentations and falsehoods related to applications for and spending of PPP loans.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a task force in May 2021 that will target various forms of fraud associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and government programs designed to respond to it. (RELATED: Criminals Stole Almost $100 Billion In COVID-19 Relief Payments, Secret Service Says)
“It’s no secret the government has a history of mismanaging grant and loan programs. Whether funds are given to phantom projects that never materialize or the grants are never awarded, taxpayers are on the hook for waste, fraud, and abuse. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is filled to the brim with grant programs ripe for bad actors to exploit and incompetent bureaucrats to mismanage,” Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs, who spearheaded the letter campaign, said in a statement to the Daily Caller.
“Given the extraordinary and unprecedented level of funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, taxpayers deserve to know that agency inspectors general are keeping a close and watchful eye on these funds. My colleagues and I are very concerned about the potential for these programs to be mismanaged or used to reward Democrat interest groups. That is why we are demanding to know how inspectors general will prevent corruption and mismanagement. The last thing we need is another Solyndra-style corruption scandal,” he added.
Read the letter here:
Large amounts of IIJA funds will be distributed through block grants to states, and through regional commissions and agencies. Regional commissions like the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which focus on job creation through grants to start-ups, local businesses and non-profits, received billions of dollars to disburse. Gayle Manchin, the wife of key negotiator Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, currently chairs the ARC.
Other senators who provided key votes for the IIJA represent states that will receive funding in the IIJA for key projects and programs, including Critical Rural Freight Corridors and the Alaska Highway.