Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Walden Legislation Seeks Return of "Unused or Reclaimed" Broadband Stimulus 02/09/2011 San Francisco - Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR-02) will tomorrow open discussion by his House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on draft legislation he authored that seeks "to return unused or reclaimed funds made available for broadband grants" from the Recovery Act to the U.S. Treasury.

Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-02), House
Subcommittee on Communications & Technology
The discussion will be part of the first congressional oversight hearing on the Obama Administration's broadband stimulus program to be conducted under Republican control of the U.S. House.

Reported in snippets elsewhere since late last week, the staff draft which recently crossed over the aisle to be reviewed by Democratic members of the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is published here by in its first appearance online.

Rep. Walden's draft states that if either of the two federal agencies managing the broadband stimulus program "determines that the recipient of" a "grant or award" from the program "has demonstrated an insufficient level of performance or wasteful or fraudulent spending", the agencies "shall deobligate" such "grant of award." Following such deobligation, the administrators of the program "shall return an amount equivalent to such grant or award to the general fund of the Treasury of the United States."

Also, the draft being circulated by the Oregon Republican requires the two agency chiefs to also return to the Treasury "a grant or award" that has been returned to either agency "or disclaimed by the grant or award recipient". 

Of critical importance in view of the obvious desire of the GOP controlled House to step-up use of the Inspectors General of the various federal agencies administering stimulus funds in providing oversight of recovery Act programs, is the third section of the Walden draft titled "Reporting Requirements."  Anytime that the "Office of the Inspector general or Comptroller General" of the U.S. notifies either NTIA or RUS "that a grant or award recipient has demonstrated an insufficient level of performance or has engaged in wasteful or fraudulent spending;" a sting of oversight committees of the House and Senate must be notified by the line agencies.

Effectively this last section, if passed into law, vests significantly increased powers with the  inspectors general of Commerce and USDA.  

Walden's office this late afternoon Washington time released to the following statement of the Chairman:

"Tomorrow’s hearing is an opportunity to examine how the broadband funds under the stimulus were used, whether they achieved their stated goals, and what kind of accountability measures are in place to protect the taxpayers’ interests," said Chairman Walden in a statement emailed to this publication late Wednesday afternoon, Washington time.

"In short, we will begin to examine what worked and what did not to inform policy discussions of universal service reform and other issues going forward. While not wanting to prejudge the answers to these questions before we hold the hearing, the draft proposal is also intended to spur a discussion about how we can reclaim unused funds from these programs and return them to the Treasury," said Walden. 

"Ultimately," concluded the member of the new GOP leadership of the House "it is a matter of good government that Congress affirmatively decide how these dollars be allocated, rather than having them shifted to new purposes Congress did not authorize."
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