A bureaucratic turf battle between the Treasury Department and a government watchdog named by President Trump could be giving free rein to scammers sucking cash out of federal COVID-19 relief programs.
Brian Miller, the Trump-appointed Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, complained in a new report that the Treasury Department is thwarting his investigations into COVID-relief fraud and “double dipping” — and that the Department of Justice has backed the block.
“The consequence is permanently reduced oversight” of the $2.2 trillion of pandemic relief spending that Congress approved in 2020, along with the $1.9 trillion of additional funds authorized by President Joe Biden this year, Miller wrote Friday.
Miller’s job as the spending programs’ watchdog was established by the CARES Act last year. The former White House attorney won Senate confirmation in April.
But according to documents included in his report, the scope of his oversight has been restricted by the Treasury Department — which claims that multi-billion-dollar programs like the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Payroll Support Program, and the Paycheck Protection Program are outside Miller’s jurisdiction.
“Over the last several months, SIGPR’s efforts to provide important oversight have been met with resistance from the Department of the Treasury and the Treasury Inspector General,” Miller charged in the report.
“Is it true … that the ‘temperature has cooled on oversight’ just when we need it most?” he asked.
But a Treasury official said that multiple federal agencies — including the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Oversight Commission — are keeping an eye on pandemic outlays, according to The Hill.
Fraudsters may have bilked up to $660 billion out of the first round of spending from the Paycheck Protection Program alone, investigators said in September.