Trump administration is blocking COVID stimulus oversight: government watchdog letter

By Chris Prentice and Koh Gui Qing
WASHINGTON / NEW YORK (Reuters) - According to a monitoring group commissioned by Congress to uncover fraud and abuse of federal aid to mitigate the economic impact of the corona virus, the Trump administration is hindering over $ 1 trillion in pandemic recovery funds .
Treasury officials said the agency was under no obligation to report key information to the general group of inspectors known as the Pandemic Response Accountability Commission (PRAC) about any of the funds they manage under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), the PRAC officials informed the legislators in a letter published on Monday.
The letter to Congress leaders describes one of the Trump administration's recent efforts to restrict the transparency and control of the government's unprecedented stimulus package. This is also the latest sign of friction between the Trump administration and the government surveillance group after the president removed several inspectors from their roles.
In the letter dated June 11, PRAC leaders said legal attitudes by tax officials could affect the group's ability to properly monitor large portions of tax-financed aid programs, including cash distributed to states and local governments, small businesses, and airlines.
The Treasury has indicated other reporting requirements as alternatives, PRAC Acting President Michael Horowitz and Executive Director Robert Westbrooks told legislators, including U.S. Democratic representative Carolyn Maloney and Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
However, "these alternatives do not affect the full range of programs for which the PRAC is responsible, and do not provide the breadth and depth of reporting that the PRAC needs to fully fulfill the responsibilities set out in the law," said Horowitz and Westbrooks .
A PRAC spokeswoman declined to comment, and the finance department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to speak to the lawmaker about monitoring the economic relief for small businesses, after previously opposing calls to disclose who received the money.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice in Washington and Koh Gui Qing in New York; edited by Jonathan Oatis)

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