Friday morning federal headlines – Jan. 25, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Medicare still has a long way to go to weed out improper payments. Two new reports by the Health and Human Services inspector general show prison inmates and illegal immigrants got $120 million worth of medical services between 2009 and 2011. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are demanding a specific plan to prevent the mistakes from happening. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says the reports show that technical issues like data-sharing are critical and being overlooked. In April, Medicare is launching a new system to better spot red flags and recover lost funds. (HHS)
  • A major EPA rule-making has been rebuffed by a federal appeals court. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the Obama administration’s request for a new hearing on the rule. The EPA had tried to set cross-state air pollution standards for electrical utilities. In August, a three-judge panel ruled the EPA had over-reached its legal authority. The agency was attempting to stop smokestacks in one state pollute the air in upwind states. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Justice Department is investigating bid-rigging at the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID’s inspector general asked Justice to look into actions by top agency officials. It’s not clear whether this is a civil or criminal probe. It arose from allegations last spring that USAID general counsel Lisa Gomer may have arranged for the agency’s retiring chief financial officer to win a consulting contract. USAID canceled the big deal after questions were raised. Gomer is now resigning. But the inspector general also has accused USAID deputy administrator Donald Steinberg of interfering with its probe. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are calling on President Barack Obama to fill inspector general vacancies at six big agencies. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee fired off a letter saying inspectors general “speak truth to power.” They singled out the Department of Homeland Security. There, the IG office itself has faced allegations of misconduct. Meanwhile, members of the House Oversight Committee say the president should focus on the State Department first. It has not had a permanent inspector general since 2008, the longest of any agency. Inspectors general require Senate confirmation. (House)
  • One of the longest-running governmentwide acquisition contracts is about to get a refresh. It’s the Solutions for Enterprise-wide Procurement, or SEWP. NASA says a draft request for proposals for SEWP-Five will come out Feb. 8. The final solicitation will come out this summer. SEWP Five will have a ceiling of $10 billion. It will encompass two broad product categories, computers and everything else like storage, networking and video-conferencing. NASA plans to set aside some product categories for small and service disabled veteran-owned companies. SEWP-four runs through 2014. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal offices are open today but once again non-emergency employees have the option to take unscheduled leave. If you are eligible to telework you can do that. But emergency employees still should come in to the office. The National Weather Service predicts snow will start falling after 4 p.m., which could affect the afternoon rush hour. (OPM/NWS)
  • It’s Tim Geithner’s last day at the Treasury Department after four years of financial threats that never seem to end. Under Geithner’s leadership, Treasury handed out $245 billion to banks through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. It’s recovered all of that and then some, but his critics say he’s gone too easy on big banks. He helped Congress draft the tougher Wall Street rules in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. And he repeatedly has battled GOP lawmakers over raising the federal debt ceiling. President Barack Obama has nominated his chief of staff Jack Lew to succeed Geithner. Reuters reports, Lew is meeting with key Senate Republicans now. (Federal News Radio