(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced the “Oversight of Vital Emergency Recovery Spending Enhancement and Enforcement (OVERSEE) Act,” which is designed to ensure financial integrity in the Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery effort.
“The victims of Hurricane Katrina have no interest in the partisan blame game in Washington. They are concerned with the basic necessities of life like shelter, food and water. This common sense, bipartisan measure is important step in ensuring that $62 billion in taxpayer funds are directed to the people and communities who need it most,” Dr. Coburn said.
The Coburn-Obama bill would create a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to oversee all expenditures associated with the Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction effort. The Hurricane Katrina CFO would be appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, staffed with experts from relevant federal agencies, and would have management and oversight over any agency using federal funds for the recovery. The CFO would issue monthly financial reports to Congress and the Government Accountability Office would issue quarterly reports to Congress reviewing the work of the CFO and recovery activities.
“This bill is vital because it will allow Congress and the President to conduct effective oversight upfront. We need to know these dollars will be well-spent before the fact, not after the fact,” Dr. Coburn said.
SUMMARY OF COBURN-OBAMA “OVERSEE ACT”
- A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) would be established and would be responsible for the efficient and effective use of federal funds in all activities relating to the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
- Unlike an IG which audits money after it has been spent, the CFO would review expenditures before they are approved. This is a better way to protect against waste, fraud, and abuse.
- The CFO would be appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and located in the Executive Office of the President.
- The CFO office would be staffed with experts detailed from relevant federal agencies, would have management and oversight of each federal agency involved in the recovery effort, and would work in conjunction with the inspectors general in each of these agencies.
- Every month, the CFO would issue financial reports to Congress on the use of federal funds. These reports would include information about the extent to which federal funds have been distributed to persons most in need, the extent to which federal funds have been distributed to companies that hire local workers, and the use of sole source and “cost plus” contracts.
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) would issue quarterly reports reviewing the activities and expenses approved by the CFO. These reports would examine the accuracy of the CFO’s reports and include information on the extent of waste, fraud, and abuse in federal spending, the use of sole source or “cost plus” contracts, whether federal funds have been used appropriately by state and local agencies, and the extent to which federal funds have helped persons most in need and local workers.
- The CFO position would terminate one year after the enactment of the bill but could be extended for an additional year by the President.