Congressional watchdog preparing investigations into coronavirus testing, stimulus distribution: report

Congressional watchdog preparing investigations into coronavirus testing, stimulus distribution: report
© Getty Images

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is poised to launch a series of probes into the federal government’s handling of various aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from testing to the distribution of stimulus funds, Politico reports.

GAO engagements, the watchdog’s term for reviews and audits, are expected to cover a wide range of subjects, including distribution of medical equipment and the national food supply, according to the publication, which cited interviews with senior investigators.

“We’re moving forward very quickly,” Angela Nicole Clowers, chief of the GAO’s health care unit, told Politico. “We’re an existing institution and have a lot of institutional knowledge about all these programs. It gives us sort of a leg up.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The CARES Act requires the GAO to brief Congress monthly and issue bimonthly public reports of its findings.

“Within GAO, we have everyone from policy analysts or public policy people like myself,” Clowers told Politico. “We have nurses, we have scientists, we have engineers, we have lawyers. You sort of name an occupation, we have ’em.”

The GAO, which saw a $20 million funding increase in the stimulus law, conducted a similar analysis of the federal response to the 2008 financial crisis, which Clowers said could serve as a model for the upcoming reviews.

“Things are always shifting and changing as the agencies shift and change to the evolving pandemic needs,” she told Politico. “We have experience doing that. We try to be as nimble as possible.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE has frequently voiced his displeasure with agency watchdogs and inspectors general, recently firing the IG for the intelligence community who first reported the whistleblower complaint to Congress that led to his impeachment. The GAO differs from other watchdogs, however, because it answers to Congress rather than the president.

“We may need to strengthen GAO’s arsenal going forward,” Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenMaryland GOP governor who's criticized Trump says he's considering 2024 presidential run Communist China won't change — until its people and the West demand it Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE (D-Md.) told Politico. “They can bring lawsuits and seek court orders to provide information but those can be a long process. We may need to allow them to expedite that process to enforce their subpoenas.”

“GAO is always significant,” Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (R-Ore.), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, added. “Their expertise and resources is a major asset that our committee taps often.”