Two Years of COVID-19 Oversight: A Look Back
“I think that these oversight bodies are probably doing the best they can under very challenging circumstances,” Nan Swift, resident fellow for the governance program at the R Street Institute, told Government Executive, pointing to funding, leadership, definitions of what their roles are and setting up their operations very quickly for such an unprecedented amount of money.
Time will tell how effective they were, if some were more effective than others and if all three were needed, she said.
“[Each] day, almost, there’s a new report of fraud or waste across many many different programs and does that mean that we didn’t do a good job of creating the kind of guardrails that would prevent this or does it mean that these bodies are doing a great job at catching it all?” she asked. “I think that’s too hard to discern at this point.”
Swift added that an issue was the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery did not have a well-defined role. The office’s jurisdiction was narrowed last spring following an opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which Miller said at the time would impede oversight of trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief programs. Based on her reading of the statue Swift believes that he had a “narrow jurisdiction that applied to just the bigger Fed and Treasury programs that were in the section where the office was established, so I’m not sure whether it was maybe incorrect expectations either on the part of that office or the others that have led to this confusion? That’s something that shouldn’t have happened,” nor should he have had to worry about funding, as was the case earlier this year.
As for Biden’s “watchdogs are back” comment, Swift said actions will speak louder than words.
“We’ll have to see if that happens during the next two years that we have left on most of these programs,” she said.