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GAO Finds Oversight Lacking at Department of Education

Republicans Warn Systemic Oversight Failures Could Exacerbate Lack of Accountability for Billions in Stimulus Funds

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 19, 2009 | Alexa Marrero or Ryan Murphy ((202) 225-4527)
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report today highlighting weaknesses in the U.S. Department of Education’s oversight capabilities, resulting in limited controls to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the agency’s grant programs. This report comes in response to a request made by Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee after troubling information emerged about embezzlement and other misuses of taxpayer provided grants to states and school districts.


Key findings in the GAO report conclude that the Department of Education lacks a common system to track and manage potential misuse of funds. Not equipped with a universal set of guidelines, directors also lack the staff and financial expertise to monitor their programs effectively. Additionally, gaps in information sharing between different programs contribute to ineffective interoffice communication regarding grant recipient performance data.

“We sought this report to determine whether the Department of Education had the capacity to identify where and when waste, fraud, and abuse might be occurring and prevent the misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the Senior Republican on the Education and Labor Committee. “Unfortunately, it appears the answer is no, on both counts. This is bad news for the American taxpayer who should be able to trust that federal agencies will be good stewards of their tax dollars. It also points to a troubling lack of transparency in government spending across the board.”

“The federal government invests billions of dollars annually in programs meant to help the most disadvantaged students in the country,” said Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), the senior Republican on the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. “Our goal in requesting this report was to ensure these funds are being used as intended, and I am deeply concerned with the report's findings that the Department of Education lacks efficiency and effectiveness in its grant management process and that these weaknesses in program implementation may negatively impact the students, parents, teachers, and administrators these programs are meant to help.”

This GAO report comes on the heels of documented failures by the White House to properly account for how money from the Democrats’ $787 billion “stimulus” package has been spent and what, if any, jobs have been created. The Administration’s website, – created to monitor and detail where stimulus funds have been spent – has come under increasing scrutiny for its failure to provide accurate reporting. Multiple instances of inaccurate job creation claims have been uncovered, including cases of funding being directed to nonexistent Congressional Districts. With a significant proportion of the alleged “saved or created” jobs attributed to the education sector, the GAO’s new findings about a lack of effective oversight raises new questions about the almost $100 billion in stimulus funding administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Millions of Americans are without jobs, and the last thing they need is gimmicks, fuzzy math, and fictional reporting,” said Rep. Kline. “Coupled with the GAO’s determination of the need for greater oversight of our education grant programs, the government must do better to increase the transparency that is vital to competent governing and securing the trust of the American people.”

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