‘Hard to know where pandemic relief money went,’ admits federal spending watchdog

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“It’s hard to know where pandemic relief money went,” the PRAC bluntly admits in a precis of the report posted on its Pandemic Oversight website. “It’s even harder for us to tell you what it was used for,” reports the statutory oversight authority for $5 trillion in federal COVID relief spending. “Government award data is full of dead ends.”

Did you catch the description “statutory oversight authority”? This is not a volunteer organization with a political ax to grind.

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This week’s Golden Horseshoe goes to a broad sweep of federal agencies for a systemic lack of transparency that is hampering efforts to monitor many billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief spending, according to a report by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC).

The PRAC was established in 2020 by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to “promote transparency and conduct and support oversight” of more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief funds.

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In a report released Wednesday, the watchdog details its difficulty in determining how funds are being spent due to federal agencies’ poor reporting on the government spending website, USAspending.gov.

“It’s hard to know where pandemic relief money went,” the PRAC bluntly admits in a precis of the report posted on its Pandemic Oversight website. “It’s even harder for us to tell you what it was used for. Government award data is full of dead ends.”

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“We looked at 51,000 awards worth $347 billion that supported the pandemic response (as of June 15, 2021),” the watchdog reports in the summary entitled “Dead Ends in Pandemic Relief Award Data.”

“We found more than 15,400 awards worth $33 billion with meaningless descriptions that make it difficult to know how the money was used,” the PRAC reveals.

The watchdog found 12,600 awards totaling $11.6 billion which used descriptions that just repeated the program name. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was responsible for 9,900 of those vaguely defined awards, totaling approximately $8.8 billion.

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