McCollum: CNCS Inspector General Budget Request Should Set Off Alarm Bells
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) responded to a stunning report to Congress submitted by Deborah J. Jeffrey, the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS-OIG), in which the “heightened risks of fraud, waste and mismanagement” resulting from Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) CEO Barbara Stewart’s “Transformation and Sustainability Plan” was given as a justification for additional FY 2020 funding for the CNCS-OIG office.
In response to the CNCS-OIG request to Congress, Rep. McCollum released the following statement:
“The Inspector General is essentially predicting an increase in fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer funds as a direct result of an ill-conceived and misguided agency reorganization. This should set off alarm bells in Congress. Any Member who cares about national service should be calling for the immediate termination of this disastrous Transformation Plan.
“The actions of the Trump administration continue to undermine CNCS’ mission to improve lives and strengthen communities. This is completely unacceptable.”
Additionally, the Trump administration’s FY 2020 budget calls for the elimination of CNCS and national service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Service Corps, and AmeriCorps VISTA. Rep. McCollum rejects the president’s proposed elimination of CNCS, but questions how the Trump administration can advance the contradictory goals of elimination and “transformation and sustainability.”
Based on the CNCS-OIG’s comments, Rep. McCollum continued:
“Eliminating CNCS is the Trump administration’s goal, and this half-baked plan being advanced by CNCS CEO Barbara Stewart appears to be a parallel process to get to the same place -- by promoting fraud and waste.”
The “Transformation and Sustainability Plan” regionalizes CNCS by paring down 46 state offices into eight regional offices. In the CNCS-OIG comments regarding the FY 2020 budget, the Inspector General cited specific concerns for the hastily-developed plan and its severe lack of oversight:
- “Aspects of this plan present heightened risks of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that warrant particularly close oversight.”
- Consolidation of 46 field offices into eight regional hubs “will likely lead to substantial turnover in staff and career leaders and consequent loss of institutional knowledge about CNCS program operations, risks, requirements, and grantees.”
- “This reorganization will foreseeably disrupt grant monitoring and will leave CNCS especially vulnerable to fraud and waste.”
- “CNCS lacks a reliable infrastructure to support the transition or compensate for the additional risk.”
- “To deter fraud during and after this transition period, we will develop new relationships with the United States Attorney’s Offices in each new region to refer fraud cases to Federal civil and criminal prosecutors.”
Rep. McCollum has been leading the effort to oppose the regionalization plan. Last month, Rep. McCollum sent a letter to CNCS CEO Barbara Stewart, signed by 35 House colleagues, requesting the immediate suspension of the plan. Last week, Rep. McCollum sent an additional letter after the first office closures raised questions about whether American taxpayer dollars are still being spent to pay the rent on offices that are now sitting empty.
Rep. McCollum’s recently introduced legislation (H.R. 1458), the Keep Community Service Local Act, would prevent the closure of a state or territory office without congressional approval.
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