The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is using a tool that tracks how stimulus money is being spent and follows the money. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag recently announced that the rest of government is going to start using that system.
The way Earl Devaney, Chairman of the RAT Board, explained it to Federal News Radio, the thinking behind the tool sounds very familiar to anyone who has, as Devaney does, a criminal justice background.
Towards the end of the last century (which sounds longer ago than it really is,) there was a shift from police responding to calls for help to Community Oriented Policing – patrolling trouble spots to act as a deterrent to crime before it happened.
Devaney explained one of his goals when standing up the RAT Board was to “try to prevent or interrupt fraud before it actually happened as opposed to the old paradigm of coming along later and detecting it.”
The new tool being turned over to agencies is a result of that effort.
“This isn’t necessarily old fashioned data mining,” said Devaney. “This is using public source information and harnessing the tools that bring millions and millions of pieces of public source data into one place.”
He cautions agencies, however, “don’t think of it as a silver bullet.” He said it’s not going to catch all of the potential fraudsters out there, lamenting that for “every device that we develop in the enforcement arena, the bad guys will think of a way around it.”
But there are some new software tools involved, said Devaney, “using these tried and true methods that had been helping us, for instance, track terrorists or organized crime and we’re using it to look at money now.”
Most importantly, it can act as a predictor of where problems might follow by looking at every grant, loan, and contract.
We’re looking at everything and trying to discern in that look where we would best utilize our investigative resources, or for that matter our audit resources. Often times we see something that might not merit a criminal investigation, for instance, but might very well be something that we think an IG ought to take a look at with the perspective of maybe doing an audit in that area. So this is…a first time opportunity to see everything at once and we’re trying to utilize the tools and professionals we have to try to take advantage of that.
While Devaney said the old tool bag basically only held audits and investigations, this is a “modern day approach to trying to prevent something before it happens as opposed to simply accepting that it will happen and detecting it later, long after the money’s gone and the bad guys are gone too.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.