Budget and resource constraints limiting HHS Inspector General, spokesman says.

The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services has not assessed whether Obamacare will be ready to roll out on Oct. 1, a spokesman for the inspector general said on Tuesday.

The inspector general’s office has not done in-depth inspections of specific parts of the law, the spokesman said.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is implementing much of the law, and the HHS Office of Inspector General is tasked with overseeing HHS operations.

“Whether the Affordable Care Act will be able to be up and fully functional on Oct. 1 is not something that we have done assessments of,” said Donald White, an OIG spokesman.

“Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) mission is to protect the integrity of Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) programs as well as the health and welfare of program beneficiaries,” states the OIG website. It focuses on preventing waste, fraud, and abuse within HHS programs.

White said that resource limitations and budgetary constraints prevent the office from examining the entirety of the law.

“We certainly cannot do it all ourselves with the resources that are available to us,” he said.

When asked about the data hub, which will transmit sensitive personal information from several federal agencies and which has been a central focus of those worried about the security of the law’s infrastructure, White said the OIG had not tested it.

“We haven’t done a verification,” he said. The OIG did issue a report on the data hub in August, but the hub had not been completed at this point, and the OIG did not test the hub itself.

A press release from HHS last week hailed the data hub’s security certification but added that the department has created “a rapid response mechanism that will be employed in the unlikely event of a data security breach.”

HHS did not return a request for comment on the security of the law’s infrastructure, and the OIG did not respond to a question about whether it knows anything about the new mechanism.

Congressional leaders and healthcare experts have criticized the OIG’s oversight efforts in the past, with one expert accusing the inspector general of “failing in his duty to the American people” at a congressional hearing earlier this year.

Congressional leaders have repeatedly expressed concerns about security under Obamacare. The data hub is at risk of a cyber attack, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) has said, while lax control over the numerous points of entry into the system pose another threat, according to Rep. James Lankford (R., Okla.).

The administration is currently mounting an effort to curb security weaknesses. The HHS OIG released several web banners on Tuesday to educate people about the potential for Obamacare scams, while the administration has set up a call center for people to report potential incidents of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission will be coordinating the response to fraud, White said.

With under a week to go until the exchanges are scheduled to open, the administration is pushing to get information out about potential fraud.

“At this point, what we think is really important is the substantive information,” White said.

“The timeframe is obviously very tight, so there is a sense that we need to have things up and running so when people start the enrollment process on Oct. 1, we will be ready for them,” he said.

Please read the original article and comments on The Washington Free Beacon website.

On health-care fraud, US is pennywise, poundfoolish

Deep staff cuts are hitting a federal agency responsible for investigating health-care fraud just as Obamacare is due to kick in, leaving less people to investigate an ever-growing crime that costs taxpayers billions of dollars.

And in a perverse twist, the funding cuts at the Health and Human Services Department’s Inspector General’s Office might save money in the short term for the U.S. taxpayer. But over the long run, more money that could have been recouped from the fraud cases now going unpursued, is being left on the table, the agency said.

For every $1 spent on health-care fraud probes, nearly $8 is recouped in fines, restitution or settlements, according to HHS.

“With fewer agents we investigate fewer cases, and with fewer cases we’re likely to have fewer convictions, few civil settlements, which will likely translate into less recoveries,” said Gary Cantrell, deputy inspector general for investigations at HHS, which investigates Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

“The problem is certainly growing . . . yet our resources are declining.”

The Office of Inspector General is halfway to its goal of reducing staff by a total of 400 people from a previous level of about 1,800 employees. The cuts, which may continue into 2015, are being made because OIG is faced with $30 million in expiring funding streams, another $25 million in funds that have been authorized but not appropriated since 2009, and about $15 million in cuts as a result of the federal government’s sequestration spending reductions.

Staff for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, noted that the Appropriation Committee subcommittee on health that he chairs “is trying to make up for the expiring funding streams” by including tens of millions of dollars in spending increases for OIG.

But there is no guarantee those increases will make it through the Senate, much less be approved by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The dollar amounts being cut from OIG’s budget are a pittance compared to the amount of money that can and has been recovered by the government in health-care fraud cases, and compared to the tens of billions of dollars lost in Medicaid and Medicare fraud each year.

Millions on the line

The money at stake varies. In 2012, drug giant GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay the U.S. government a whopping $3 billion for, among other things, promoting antidepressant prescriptions to children despite those drugs not being approved for kids.
While the GSK case is a high-water mark, it is not unusual for health-care fraud cases to recoup millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, for example, a judge slapped a $17.3 million fine on corrupt Detroit-area pharmacist Babubhai Patel as he sentenced Patel to 17 years in prison for fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
With the roll-out of Obamacare, which will expand Medicaid enrollment rolls, as well increase the number of people with private medical insurance, Cantrell and others expect there to be even more opportunities for fraud.
(Read more: The new health-care scam that’s ripping off taxpayers)

“We already turn down work that we can’t proceed on. It’s only going to increase with the continued expansion of the Medicaid program because of the Affordable Care Act,” Cantrell said.
“Last year, we closed over 1,200 complaints because of lack of resources,” Cantrell said. “That number’s going to be pretty high this year as well, likely to exceed 1,000.”
Louis Saccoccio, president of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, a private-public partnership, said the cut to OIG’s budget “doesn’t make any sense.”
“You’re spending close to half a trillion dollars on Medicare, and another $400 billion or so in Medicaid. You have to invest in ensuring the integrity of these programs,” Saccoccio said. “When you have this amount of investment, it just doesn’t make much sense to cut.”

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon, predicted, “Substantial cuts will translate into greater abuse, waste and fraud.”
Health at risk

At stake in those cuts is not just the dollars lost.
“The bottom line to all this is, besides the money, the public health,” said Lauren Mack, who heads health-care fraud prosecutions for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in New York City, which often partners with federal authorities.
“We find doctors who are diluting flu shots, pharmacists putting out tainted pills,” Mack said. “We have had people giving pacemakers to people who don’t even have heart problems.”
“There are 774 pharmacies in Brooklyn,” Mack said. “There are a lot of bad little shops. Those little frauds, those little crimes add up. That’s a constant bleed. If you don’t have these people closed down by agents, that amounts to a big bleed—that’s a gusher.”
OIG’s Cantrell said that while his office’s value often is measured in fines and settlement amounts in the millions of dollars or more, another measure is reductions in unnecessary Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.
Cantrell noted that in 2011 Miami resident Lawrence Duran was sentenced to 50 years in prison for a $205 million Medicaid scam involving his community mental health company American Therapeutic. Duran also was ordered to pay $87 million in restitution.
(Read more: Obamacare is coming and so are the con artists)
Duran’s scheme, which involved bogus Medicaid claims, was brought down by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint HHS and Justice Department effort that operates in nine metropolitan areas and has lead to charges against more than 1,500 people for more than $5 billion in false billings since the unit began in 2007.
“We saw this scheme, and others like it in south Florida and Louisiana,” Cantrell said. “Largely as a result of law-enforcement efforts, we saw significant reductions of Medicare outlays.”
In other words, after Duran was busted, other community mental health centers reduced their billings to Medicare, a possible sign that at least some of them may have been engaging in fraud.

 

Please visit the original article at the CNBC website.

Inspectors General Worried by Tight Budgets, Sequestration

A trail-blazing survey of the inspector general community showed wide concern over the impact of budget cuts and sequestration, along with a professed faith in technological tools such as data analytics to help assess risk and curb waste, fraud and abuse.

Released on Tuesday by the Association of Government Accountants, supported by Kearney and Co., the first such survey found that more than two-thirds of inspectors general view limited resources as their top challenge, particularly when they feel pressure to hire specialized talent to confront a changing technological landscape. A related challenge is the continuing ability to issue audit reports that are timely and that improve programs and operations.

Fully 85 percent of respondents identified information technology as the area most in need of fresh hires.

Though many IG offices, like the agencies they oversee, have proactively moved funds to ease the impact of across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration, most reported they are operating under a hiring freeze, or modified freeze with one hire for every three vacancies. One office cut its audit staff by 13 percent, while another estimated its full-time equivalent headcount is at its lowest since 1978, when IGs were created.

The anonymous survey consisted of an in-person interview instrument given to a random selection of current and former IG staff governmentwide.

“Financial statement audits provided significant value in the improvement of internal controls and data integrity in financial and other related program areas,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said of the survey results. “As data sources and relationships are refined and capabilities to process and synthesize data are improved, the IG community should greatly benefit. When this relationship is in place, it sets a positive tone at the top and much can be accomplished on behalf of the agency.”

David Zavada, a Kearney partner who helped direct the survey, added, “By leveraging technology, collaborating and sharing more broadly, and introducing earlier risk identification and reporting, IGs are striving to maintain effective oversight in an uncertain and changing environment.”

Please read the original article and comments at the Government Executive website.

Reforms Proposed For Inspectors General Office

With senators calling for more audits of public agencies and projects, and the workload mounting, the V.I. Office of the Inspector General has submitted a reorganization plan that would give the corruption-fighting entity more teeth, more money and more autonomy.

However, Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt expressed minimal confidence about the adoption of the reform plan, which he said was a rehash of ideas he had floated before the last three Legislatures to no avail.

In five pages submitted to all 15 senators a day after the Inspector General’s budget hearing on June 27, van Beverhoudt outlines a number of reform options for addressing three key issues he thinks hamper the functionality of the office and compromise its independence: the manner of establishing its budget; the location of the office within the government’s structure; and to whom it reports violations of law.

The office should have a set, continual funding stream not subject to the allotment process and should have the option of reporting violations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, not solely to the Attorney General’s Office, according to van Beverhoudt. Both the budget process and the attorney general, as an appointee of the governor, are subject to too much control by the executive branch, van Beverhoudt said.

Being overly beholden to the administration for funding and enforcement to follow its work weakens the office and raises conflict of interest issues, van Beverhoudt said.

Established in 1999 by Act 6333, over the governor’s veto, the Office of the Inspector General was given the authority to “not only audit the government, but to also investigate potential instances of fraud, waste and abuse within the government,” the plan’s introduction reads.

Van Beverhoudt opened his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee with a quote from The Washington Post describing the difficulties of being the bearer of political hot potatoes: “Inspector Generals as a breed are about as welcome as the IRS at tax time. If they want to be popular and well-liked, they should do something more socially acceptable, like be an executioner.”

The reform plan appears to have traction with some senators in the Finance and Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice committees, though.

The plan offers the following options for reforming how the office is funded: establish a minimum budget of $2.5 million; establish the budget as a fixed percentage of the overall budget with a minimum of $2.5 million; or allow the Inspector General to submit budget requests directly to the Legislature.

“For all three options, the V.I. Inspector General Office’s budget should be submitted directly to the Legislature and not be included in the Office of Management and Budget’s established ceiling levels,” van Beverhoudt wrote.

In response to recent calls for comment on audits of a sole-source contract by the Bureau of Information Technology and of the Turnbull Library, van Beverhoudt made clear that budget cuts had left him with a skeleton crew of investigators and that his office is ill-equipped to address a backlog of investigations, much less take on new ones.

The governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Inspector General’s office was $1,429,500, more than $1 million below what van Beverhoudt’s plan estimates to be the bare minimum for maintaining efficiency.

Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, who has twice initiated calls for audits of agencies and projects during the last two months of hearing budget testimony, said she agrees that the office is underfunded and short-staffed and that she fears the territory will suffer from a lack of oversight and corrective guidance provided by the office to government entities.

In interviews, van Beverhoudt stressed that the office needs to be able to report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office primarily because it sometimes uncovers violations of federal law.

Rivera-O’Reilly also pointed out that, if it were to report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is an extension of the U.S. Justice Department, that might open up the Inspector General’s office to receive federal funds.

“I am in favor of them reporting to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Sen. Sammuel Sanes said. “Oftentimes, we see reports coming from the Inspector General’s office, and they are excellent reports, but there is no follow-through. When we ask why, the answer is always lack of funding or lack of personnel. In light of what has been happening in our government, in our own branch, and in DPNR, we need more oversight.”

Sanes was referring to recent allegations of embezzlement and misuse of federal grant funds by Roberto Tapia, chief of Enforcement for the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Indicting him for cocaine trafficking, the FBI leveled a number of corruption charges againt Tapia and said he used his DPNR boat and vehicle to traffic drugs. Tapia also sought a $40,000 bribe for a DPNR contract related to the removal of marine scrap metal, according to the indictment.

Sanes also was alluding to a joint federal and local audit of the 26th, 27th and 28th Legislatures that put the legislative branch on the hook for $6.9 million in misspent public money.

Other senators offered the example of the V.I. Attorney General’s Office failure to charge Gov. John deJongh Jr. with criminal violations after an Inspector General’s audit determined deJongh had unjustly spent $500,000 on a guard house for his private residence. Attorney General Vincent Frazer recommended that the governor repay the misappropriated amount before his term expires.

Frazer bristled at suggestions that justice was not served by the present situation of the Inspector General’s office within the V.I. government.

“The Inspector General’s office is an organ of the V.I. government. It is not an organ of the United States government,” Frazer said. “If the taxpayers are paying their salaries, then the reporting needs to be done to the V.I. government.”

Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. supplied a statement regarding van Beverhoudt’s request for a reorganization of his office by email Friday.

“Governor deJongh has not seen the proposed reorganization of the IG’s office, so we can’t comment on specifics, but overall, the administration has always been supportive of the Office of Inspector General, mindful not to interfere in their determinations and investigations, and, where possible, have provided as much financial support as possible.”

- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email anorris@dailynews.vi.

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Please read the original article and comments at the Virgin Islands Daily News website.

Citizens’ Inspector General search down to 13

The search for an internal watchdog at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was narrowed from 88 applicants to 13 candidates on Tuesday.

And the list should be trimmed to the finalists by September, as the remaining candidates will be asked to appear for interviews with a three-member selection committee – headed by Gov. Rick Scott’s Inspector General Melinda Miguel – the week of Aug. 5.

A short list following the interviews will go to the state Financial Services Commission — made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — for a final selection.

“The Financial Services Commission is the one that hires and fires this position,” Miguel said. “So I’d like to come up with two or three solid candidates that clear the background and can go forward for consideration.”

The position, advertised as offering a competitive salary up to $200,000, was part of a new insurance law Scott signed May 29.

The salary would be paid by Citizens.

The position was sought because of concerns expressed by Scott and others about travel spending by Citizens employees and the firing of the state-backed agency’s Office of Corporate Integrity.

The 13 who will be invited for interviews are:

— Neftali Carrasquillo Jr.: Texas Department of Insurance, fraud unit associate commissioner.

— Robert Cerasoli: Enhanced protection specialist with MSA Security, New York, also a former inspector general for New Orleans.

— Hector Collazo Jr.: Inspector general, Pinellas County Clerk of Circuit Court, former law enforcement officer.

— Charles Faircloth: Executive director and chief of staff, Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force, Department of Financial Services.

— Lester Fernandez: Deputy assistant inspector general for inspections, U.S. Department of Education.

— John Grayson: CPA, with Grayson Accounting and Consulting, Tallahassee.

— Christopher Hirst: Florida Department of Children and Families inspector general.

— R. David Holmgren: Deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations at the U.S Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

— Robert McNichols: Chief audit executive, SantaFe Healthcare, Gainesville.

— Bruce Meeks: attorney, Law Offices of Roberts & Meeks, Tallahassee.

— Thomas Raftery: Inspector general, Delaware River Port Authority, Camden, New Jersey.

— Peter Williams: former inspector general for the Florida Department of Education, 2012 candidate for State Attorney in the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

— Richard Woodford: Director, Office of National Talent Pool and Training, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.

Read the original article and comments from the news-press.com website.

Home Health Agency Owner Pleads Guilty for Role in $13.8 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

DETROIT – Detroit-area resident Javed Rehman pleaded guilty on Monday for his role in a $13.8 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the Chicago Regional Office for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).

Rehman, 50, of Farmington Hills, Mich., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen in the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 7, 2013, Rehman faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to information contained in plea documents, in or around May 2009, Rehman purchased Quantum Home Care Inc. with co-conspirators Tausif Rahman and Muhammad Ahmad. Rehman paid kickbacks to recruiters to obtain Medicare beneficiary information used to bill Medicare for home health services – including physical therapy and skilled nursing services – that were never rendered. Rehman was the administrator of Quantum and was responsible for the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare based on falsified files created by the co-conspirators.

Medicare paid approximately $1.7 million to Quantum for physical therapy and skilled nursing services that Quantum purported to render between approximately June 2009 and September 2011. According to court documents, between 2008 and 2009, Rehman’s co-conspirators acquired control of three other home health care companies. The four companies, including Quantum, received approximately $13.8 million from Medicare in the course of the conspiracy.

Rahman pleaded guilty on Jan. 5, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of money laundering and is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 30, 2013. Ahmad pleaded guilty on Aug. 28, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 29, 2013.

This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, and IRS Criminal Investigation and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. It is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Catherine K. Dick of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

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State Department IG highly critical of IT sub-bureau

When running a department, it is a good idea to have a mission statement, strategic planning and a workload that justifies its organizational structure and the millions of dollars of taxpayer money it receives each year.

The State Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management, Office of Information Assurance (IRM/IA) has none of those things, according to a State Department’s Office of Inspector General audit released in July, and further lacks controls and procedures to monitor contracts, task orders and blanket purchase agreements totaling $79 million.

IRM/IA, established in 2003 to comply with the Title III of the E-Government Act, was formed to address information security requirements, yet OIG found the majority of those functions are performed in other State Department offices.

The audit criticized the bureau’s certification and accreditation operations (C&A) because mishandling of these processes – as well as guidance and reviews of C&A packages – contributed to expired authorizations to operate (ATOs) for 52 of the State Department’s 309 systems. Some delinquent systems have been operating on expired authorizations for more than two years, the audit states.

IRM/IA – with its staff of 22 full-time employees and 36 contract employees, and its $10 million operating budget – plays a lead role in overseeing the State Department’s cyber-security program, including information assurance policies, standards and guidelines, and compliance with national security directives.

Yet its sister departments do most of the heavy lifting, the OIG report states, including management and oversight of the State Department’s information systems, which include its classified and unclassified networks. Personnel in other IRM departments are responsible keeping watch against cyber-attacks and risk measures, as well as desktop security guidelines.

“IRM/IA performs a limited number of information assurance functions, does not have a lead role in most of the functions it does perform and, for the most part, only compiles information generated by others,” the report states, before concluding the bureau’s realignment request to create a fourth division was not justified.

“In light of the lack of active involvement in many of its stated responsibilities, the proposed IRM/IA office realignment for an additional deputy position and one more division, as well as the need for some of the current divisions, are not justified by the current level of work being performed,” the audit states. Not surprisingly, the audit was critical of the bureau’s head, Chief Information Security Officer William Lay, who accepted the position in September 2012. Lay, the report stated, did a good job on arrival rebuilding relationships internally and externally with IRM/IA, but he has not addressed critical management issues. He also isn’t in the office much, according to OIG, so staff is often left wondering what to do.

“The CISO has not provided division chiefs with priorities based on defined goals, as a result, the staff is not proactive in meeting information security requirements,” OIG states. “The CISO held nine staff meetings in the first 6 months after his arrival. IRM/IA staff commented that those meetings normally do not provide clarity on what the CISO considers to be office priorities. Many staff commented that they are unaware of the CISO’s activities in general and are unable to obtain those answers since he is not seen regularly in the office.”

The audit’s recommendations to IRM/IA total more than 30 formal directives and several informal ones as well. Chief among them was requesting the Bureau of Human Resources to direct the Office of Resource Management and Organizational Analysis to conduct an organization assessment of IRM/IA, and determine what similar functions are being performed by other State Department offices.

The OIG also said that IRM/IA needs a mission statement that includes short-term and long-term priorities and goals for its office and each of its three divisions.

A State Department spokesman said little in response to FCW, writing in a brief statement: “The Department takes the OIG feedback seriously and is committed to addressing the recommendations and the concerns that led to the assessment.”

View the original article at the FCW.com website.

Inspector General Report: U.S. Government Spent $630k On Facebook Fans

Just like so many everyday citizens and private companies, the U.S. government just wants to be “liked.” An Inspector General has published a report indicating that the U.S. government spent $630,000 to earn the “likes” that it craved to help engage U.S. citizens.

The Inspector General’s finely tuned report gets to the heart of the matter with its single-digit coverage of social media – within its total 57 pages – and breaks down the important numbers. While the U.S. Government’s two campaigns, with a combined price tag of $630,000, did increase its fan following from approximately 100,000 to over 2 million, this 2,000-percent increase may sound more impressive than it truly is in reality.

Simply gaining followers and those who have access to the U.S. government’s running newsfeed is the main target for many businesses and individuals seeking a following, but this following does not automatically translate into meaningful engagement. If individuals who have “liked” the page never follow up and participate in any meaningful way, were these two campaigns really a success? Many social media dashboards and brand marketers believe that is all it takes. However, this is the U.S. government “buying fans” for their page, and several members of the Bureau have expressed their concern over this practice, especially since the fans show no signs of engaging any further.

The legitimate concern comes down to a classic quantity versus quality issue. Casting the widest net in marketing is not necessarily the smartest strategy. Rather, marketing to your prime audience and those who are most enthusiastic about engaging are where these campaigns should be aimed. When marketers find the right audience, their message will not ultimately fall on deaf ears, or distracted eyes, in this case. What’s worse is that marketers, in this case the U.S. government, eventually need to spend more money on their elusive fan base since, after a period of no activity, they fall from a fan’s newsfeed and have to try and regain their interest. Additionally, with a lack of coordination and duplication efforts, the Inspector General’s report indicates that, similar to civilian marketers, the U.S. government missed the mark in its social media campaign.

Do you follow any governmental Facebook pages? Send your comments or questions on the relationship between social media and your investigations team in your organization to our LinkedIn Group.

Read the original article and comments on the Business2Community website.

IG Letter Undermines Claim IRS Also Targeted Progressive Groups

A letter sent from the Treasury inspector general to Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan will undermine the argument that progressive organizations were subject to the same undue scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service as Tea Party groups. And that’s too bad, because the IRS scandal, such as it is, has become a tar pit of futility, an endless game of darts in which the winner is the first to score infinity points.

Everyone in Washington agrees that the IRS’ tax-exempt division should not have singled out groups with the words “Tea Party” in their names for special scrutiny when considering their applications. Everyone. Everyone on Capitol Hill, at the White House, at the IRS. This happened from the outset, in fact, when Congressional Republicans blasted the findings in a report from the inspector general, J. Russell George, and their Democratic colleagues quickly joined in. The new head of the IRS, Danny Werfel, repeatedly criticized the agency’s behavior.

That unanimity left little room for political posturing, so the debate became about minutiae. Rep. Darrell Issa and his Democratic colleague on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, started scrapping over transcripts of interviews with agents involved in the targeting. Issa’s goal was to stretch a line from the agents to Obama; Cummings’ was to put the whole thing to bed. Neither effort worked.

Read the rest of the story on The Atlantic Wire.

Governor Corbett Appoints Pennsylvania Inspector General

Governor Tom Corbett today announced that the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General will be guided by two veteran prosecutors, bringing a wealth of skill and experience to an agency dedicated to investigating and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in state government programs.

Michael A. Sprow has been appointed as Inspector General and K. Kenneth Brown, II has been selected as Chief Counsel for the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Both men have been serving at OIG in acting capacities and will begin their new permanent duties immediately.

“Mike Sprow’s experience handling complicated criminal matters, including high-profile public corruption investigations and child predator cases, has clearly demonstrated his commitment to protecting Pennsylvanians and makes him uniquely suited to be our next Inspector General,” Corbett said.

“His entire career has been dedicated to protecting the public, including exemplary work with the Attorney General’s Office and Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office, and our citizens can rest assured that Mike brings that same commitment to his new position,” Corbett said.

Prior to this appointment, Sprow served as Chief Counsel to the Inspector General since November 2012. He began serving as Acting Inspector General on April 5, 2013. Before joining OIG, Sprow was a Senior Deputy Attorney General for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and before that was a Deputy District Attorney in Dauphin County.

Sprow is a graduate of the William and Mary School of Law and Gettysburg College. He also served as law clerk for Judge George P. Kazen in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Corbett expressed in the confidence in the General Counsel’s selection of K. Kenneth Brown, II as Chief Counsel for OIG, where he will serve as the primary legal advisor to Inspector General Sprow.

“Ken Brown is one of a handful of prosecutors who have helped to change the face of state government in Pennsylvania, holding public officials accountable for abusing their official positions and misusing state resources,” Corbett said. “I can think of no better attorney to serve as Chief Counsel to the Inspector General, lending his extensive legal skills to an agency committed to eradicating waste and fraud.”

Brown joined the Office of Inspector General in February 2013 following five years with the Criminal Prosecutions Section of the Attorney General’s Office. He began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Brown is a graduate of the Dickinson School of Law and Juniata College and has served as an instructor and faculty for various training sessions and legal education courses.

Corbett was especially pleased that Sprow and Brown have both agreed to lend their skills to the Office of Inspector General, continuing a partnership that proved extremely effective in numerous corruption cases at the Office of Attorney General.

“Individually, Mike Sprow and Ken Brown are outstanding prosecutors and excellent legal minds. Together, they are an exceptional team and I am pleased that they are continuing to serve the commonwealth.”

The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General was created in 1987 to ensure that taxpayer monies are being spent appropriately and that the government is operating efficiently. The Office works to investigate and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in the programs, operations, and contracting of executive agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction.

The Inspector General is a cabinet-level official who is appointed by, and reports to, the Governor. Additional information is available on the official website for the Office of Inspector General, at: http://www.oig.state.pa.us