Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
MS KVIEN: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Kristina Kvien. I’m the charge d’affaires here at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. And it is my enormous pleasure to have with me today our Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
We’d like to thank you all for joining this roundtable today. As many of you know, Secretary Blinken knows Ukraine well through three decades of work on foreign policy, including with the White House, the State Department, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While here in Ukraine, Secretary Blinken has met with Ukrainian Government, civil society, and members of the press. And one of his primary areas of discussion with all of these groups has been Ukraine’s reform agenda and fight against corruption, which is why we’ve invited stakeholders from civil society, business, and anticorruption institutions here today to discuss the important work that they do, share their assessment of Ukraine’s progress on reforms, and advise how the United States can support their efforts.
So – and now please allow me to introduce Secretary of State Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Kristina, thank you so much, and it’s wonderful to be with all of you virtually. I wish we were together in person, but maybe next time, but meanwhile I really appreciate everyone taking some time this afternoon to have a conversation. And as I look at it, Ukraine is facing aggression from without and from within. From without, obviously from Russia and the actions it’s taken since 2014 – Crimea, the Donbas, including recently – but from within, from corruption, from oligarchs and interests that would put themselves ahead of the interests of the Ukrainian people. And so just as there are incredibly brave soldiers on the front lines in the Donbas, in many ways you are on the front lines in that second fight against corruption and for a democracy that has strong institutions, that has transparency, that has accountability.
We know that corruption literally eats away at Ukraine’s democracy from the inside. And so the work that you’re doing and the courage that you show in doing it could not be more important. And I really want to salute you for that.
We had some very good conversations today with leaders in the government, including President Zelenskyy, including about the reform agenda. And what I really am anxious to do is to listen to you, to hear from you about how the United States can be a strong and even stronger partner for Ukraine in moving forward with reforms, and particularly in combating corruption. What can we do more effectively in support of Ukraine as it takes on this fight?
And some of the things we discussed today with government colleagues were the very great importance of corporate governance, and particularly to make sure that there are true, independent people overseeing the particularly state-owned enterprises. We talked about as well the vital importance of sustaining and strengthening the anti-corruption board. We talked about the importance of judicial reform and making sure that the process for picking judges is transparent and relies on outside evaluation and expertise, not on inside interests. We talked about the reform of the security forces to make sure that they’re truly working for the Ukrainian people.
And finally, we talked about the importance not only of passing the right laws and making sure that the legal foundation is there to deal with corruption, to advance transparency, to deal with the judiciary, but that those laws are actually implemented. Because it’s necessary but insufficient to have laws on the books; they actually have to be used for the purposes to which they’re intended.
So we, as I said, had a very good, open, direct conversation. We want to know how we can be more helpful. And so I’d really like to learn from you, to listen to you, both about your assessment of the state of things, what’s working, what’s not working, and again, whether there are things that we can do to be a strong partner to Ukraine in advancing reform and combating corruption.
MS KVIEN: Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken.
Greetings I’m Sam.
I edit, report and maintain this site. If you have any questions You can mail below me but it could be a while before I get back to you.
- Three Peruvian Nationals Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud Thousands of Spanish-Speaking U.S. ResidentsBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021Three Peruvian nationals pleaded guilty to operating a series of call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by threatening, among other things, arrest and deportation.[Read More…]
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- NASA Human Space Exploration: Significant Investments in Future Capabilities Require Strengthened Management OversightBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) again delayed the planned launch date for Artemis I, the first uncrewed test flight involving three closely related human spaceflight programs—the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS). Together, these programs aim to continue human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The most recent delay, to November 2021, resulted in part from manufacturing challenges and represents a 36-month slip since NASA established a schedule to measure performance in 2014. This new launch date does not account for the effects of COVID-19. According to NASA officials, COVID-19 delays and schedule risks will place pressure on NASA's ability to achieve this launch date. Development cost estimates for key programs also increased. The cost of the SLS program increased by 42.5 percent and the EGS program by 32.3 percent since 2014, for a combined increase of over $3 billion, bringing the total to $11.5 billion. NASA does not plan to complete revised estimates for Orion, which are tied to the second, crewed test flight (Artemis II) before spring 2021. Key Parts of Space Launch System Ready for Testing at Stennis Space Center NASA awarded billions of dollars in development and production contracts to support flights beyond Artemis I, but the flight schedule has changed frequently due to a lack of clear requirements and time frames for planned capability upgrades. Limited NASA oversight also places efforts to plan and execute future flights at risk of adverse outcomes, such as increased costs or delays. For example, NASA is committed to establishing cost and schedule performance baselines for these efforts, but it plans to do so too late in the acquisition process to be useful as an oversight tool. In addition, senior leaders do not receive consistent and comprehensive information at quarterly briefings on future efforts, such as a program to begin developing a more powerful upper stage for SLS. This is because current updates provided to NASA management focus primarily on the more short-term Artemis I and II flights. This approach places billions of dollars at risk of insufficient NASA oversight. NASA is pursuing an aggressive goal to return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon by the end of 2024. The success of NASA's plans hinges, in part, on two upcoming test flights. An uncrewed test flight and subsequent crewed test flight are intended to demonstrate the capability of a new launch vehicle, crew capsule, and ground systems. The House Committee on Appropriations included a provision in its 2017 report for GAO to continue to review NASA's human space exploration programs. This is the latest in a series of GAO reports addressing this topic. This report assesses (1) the progress the programs are making towards the first test flight, known as Artemis I, with respect to schedule and cost, and (2) the extent to which NASA's human space exploration programs are positioned to support the planned Artemis flight schedule beyond Artemis I. To do this work, GAO examined program cost and schedule reports, test plans, and contracts, and interviewed officials. GAO also assessed the extent to which the COVID-19 state of emergency has affected schedules for these programs. GAO is making two recommendations to NASA to establish baselines ahead of a key design review and improve internal reporting about capability upgrades for human space exploration programs beyond Artemis I. NASA concurred with the recommendations made in this report. For more information, contact William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Workplace Safety and Health: Actions Needed to Improve Reporting of Summary Injury and Illness DataBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021GAO's analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data showed that the number of recordkeeping violations OSHA cited fluctuated over 15 years (see fig.). An April 2012 federal court decision (that effectively limited the time period for citing these violations) and a January 2015 expansion of OSHA's rule for reporting severe injuries and illnesses coincided with, and were cited by, OSHA staff as key factors explaining these fluctuations. Number Recordkeeping Violations OSHA Cited by Fiscal Year Employers did not report any summary injury and illness data on more than one-half of their establishments that GAO estimated met the reporting requirements (see table). Estimated Compliance with Summary Injury and Illness Reporting Requirement Calendar year Estimated establishments that met summary injury and illness reporting requirements Establishments whose employers submitted summary injury and illness data Number Percent 2016 451,000 159,000 35% 2017 454,000 189,000 42% 2018 459,000 212,000 46% Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns data and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) summary (300A) injury and illness data. Establishments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported these data. Data rounded to the nearest thousand. | GAO-21-122 OSHA has limited procedures for encouraging compliance with this reporting requirement and for penalizing non-compliance. For example, OSHA officials told GAO that they identified nearly 220,000 employers in 2019 who may not have reported their data and mailed reminder postcards to about 27,000 of them. OSHA also cited 255 employers for failure to report their data from mid-December 2017 through September 2019 after OSHA conducted on-site inspections. OSHA uses the summary injury and illness data to target high-risk establishments for certain comprehensive inspections. Because OSHA has not evaluated its procedures, it does not know the extent to which its efforts may be improving injury and illness reporting or what other efforts it should undertake. Absent more complete information, OSHA is at risk for not achieving its objective of targeting inspections to establishments with the highest injury and illness rates. In 2018, about 3.5 million workers suffered job-related injuries, and illnesses and 5,250 died on the job, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Employers are required to record work-related injuries and illnesses, promptly report severe injury and illness incidents to OSHA, and certain employers are required to report summary injury and illness data electronically on an annual basis. GAO was asked to review how OSHA addresses recordkeeping violations, and implements its rule for reporting summary data. This report examines: (1) how and why recordkeeping violations changed from fiscal years 2005 through 2019 and (2) the extent to which employers report summary injury and illness data and OSHA has taken steps to ensure compliance with this requirement. GAO analyzed 15 years of OSHA recordkeeping violation data and compared OSHA and Census data to estimate how many employers complied with summary reporting requirements. GAO also reviewed agency procedures and relevant federal laws and regulations and interviewed OSHA headquarters officials and staff at seven OSHA area offices, selected for geographic dispersion and varying amounts of recordkeeping violations. GAO recommends OSHA evaluate procedures for ensuring reporting of summary data and develop a plan to remediate deficiencies. OSHA generally concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Navy Ships: Timely Actions Needed to Improve Planning and Develop Capabilities for Battle Damage RepairBy Sam NewsJune 2, 2021What GAO Found The Navy has identified several challenges with using its regular maintenance capability (which restores ships to fully operational status) to provide battle damage repairs during a great power conflict. Challenges include—the lack of established doctrine for battle damage repair, unclear command and control roles, and a shortage of repair capacity. The Navy Process for Repairing Ships Damaged in Battle The Navy is in the early stages of determining how it will provide battle damage repair during a great power conflict. Eight organizations are responsible for the Navy's 15 battle damage repair planning efforts, however the Navy has not designated an organization to lead and oversee these efforts. Without designated leadership, the Navy may be hindered in its efforts to address the many challenges it faces in sustaining its ships during a great power conflict. The Navy develops ship vulnerability models during a ship's acquisition to estimate damage during a conflict. These models are also used to inform war games that refine operational approaches and train leaders on decision-making. However, the Navy does not update these models over a ship's decades-long service life to reflect changes to key systems that could affect model accuracy. As a result, it lacks quality data on ship mission-critical failure points to inform its analysis of battle damage repair needs. Without periodically assessing and updating its models to accurately reflect the ship's mission-critical systems, the Navy has limited its ability to assess and develop battle damage repair capabilities necessary to sustain ships in a conflict with a great power competitor. Why GAO Did This Study The ability to repair and maintain ships plays a critical role in sustaining Navy readiness. After the Cold War, the Navy divested many wartime ship repair capabilities. With the rise of great power competitors capable of producing high-end threats in warfare, the Navy must now be prepared to quickly salvage and repair damage to a modern fleet. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included a provision for GAO to assess the Navy's efforts to identify and mitigate challenges in repairing battle-damaged ships during a great power conflict. GAO's report (1) discusses the challenges the Navy has identified in using its regular maintenance capability for battle damage repair, and (2) evaluates the extent to which the Navy has begun developing the battle damage repair capability it requires to prevail in a great power conflict. GAO reviewed relevant guidance and assessed reports on naval war games and other documentation to identify challenges that may impede the planning and repair of battle-damaged ships and efforts to improve the repair capability for a great power conflict.[Read More…]
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- 2020 Census: Key Areas for Attention Raised by Compressed TimeframesBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an August decision to end data collection about 30 days earlier than planned, the Census Bureau (Bureau) has made late design changes to the 2020 Census. The Bureau also announced it would accelerate its response processing operations, which improve the completeness and accuracy of census results. According to the Bureau, late design changes introduce risk to census quality and costs. The compressed time frames for field operations and data processing raise a number of issues that will require the Bureau's attention. It will be important for the Bureau to hire and retain a sufficient workforce, manage operational changes to the Nonresponse Follow-up operation, ensure census coverage at the local level, evaluate risks in streamlining response processing, and ensure timely and quality processing of census responses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will monitor the remainder of field operations and the Bureau's response processing operations. Like the rest of the country, the Bureau has been required to respond to COVID-19. Resulting delays, compressed time frames, implementation of untested procedures, and continuing challenges could undermine the overall quality of the count and escalate census costs. GAO was asked to testify on its ongoing work on implementation of the 2020 Census. This testimony examines the cost and progress of key 2020 Census operations critical to a cost-effective enumeration. Over the past decade, GAO has made 112 recommendations specific to the 2020 Census. To date, the Bureau has implemented 92. As of September 2020, 19 of the recommendations had not been fully implemented. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202)512-6806 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Department of Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Accounting of Intradepartmental TransactionsBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has a long-standing material weakness related to intradepartmental transactions. Intradepartmental transactions occur when trading partners within the same department engage in business activities—such as the Department of the Army as a seller and the Department of the Navy as a buyer within DOD. As part of the standard process of preparing department-wide financial statements, intradepartmental transaction amounts are eliminated to avoid overstating accounts for DOD. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019, DOD eliminated approximately $451 billion of net intradepartmental activity. Auditors continue to report a material weakness related to DOD's processes for recording and reconciling intradepartmental transaction amounts that are necessary to eliminate the transactions and prepare reliable consolidated financial statements. DOD has identified implementation of the Government Invoicing (G-Invoicing) system as its long-term solution to account for and support its intradepartmental activities. In fiscal year 2020, DOD issued a policy requiring all DOD components to use G-Invoicing's General Terms and Conditions (GT&C) functionality for initiating and approving GT&C agreements—a necessary step for using subsequent G-Invoicing functionalities (see figure). GAO found the use of this functionality varied among selected DOD components because of issues such as inconsistency in DOD policies and numerous changes to G-Invoicing system specifications. If DOD components do not implement the GT&C functionality, there is an increased risk of delay in full implementation of G-Invoicing to help remediate the intradepartmental eliminations material weakness. General Terms and Conditions Agreement Process in Government Invoicing Although DOD has identified G-Invoicing as its long-term solution, GAO found that DOD has not implemented an overall department-wide strategy to address its intradepartmental eliminations material weakness in the short term. Further, GAO found that while DOD issued a department-wide policy in May 2019 with new requirements for reconciling intradepartmental transactions, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and selected DOD components have not updated their policies or implemented several of the new requirements. Without a short-term strategy that includes identifying the causes of issues and consistently implementing department-wide policies across DOD, DOD's efforts to resolve differences in intradepartmental transaction amounts—including its efforts in the long term—will likely be inefficient and ineffective. Since 1995, GAO has designated DOD financial management as high risk because of pervasive weaknesses in its financial management systems, controls, and reporting. DOD's long-standing intradepartmental eliminations material weakness reflects DOD's inability to adequately record and reconcile its intradepartmental transactions, and has affected DOD's ability to prepare auditable financial statements. GAO was asked to evaluate DOD's process for performing intradepartmental eliminations. This report examines the extent to which DOD has (1) identified and taken steps to address issues related to intradepartmental eliminations and (2) established and implemented policies and procedures related to intradepartmental eliminations. GAO interviewed DOD officials about intradepartmental eliminations processes and reviewed DOD policies and procedures to identify the extent to which procedures have been implemented to record and reconcile intradepartmental transactions. GAO is making five recommendations to DOD, including that DOD should (1) take actions to ensure that its components follow its policy for using G-Invoicing's GT&C functionality and (2) develop short-term solutions that address causes for trading partner differences before G-Invoicing is fully implemented. DOD agreed with all five recommendations and cited actions to address them. For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- U.S. Postal Service: Volume, Performance, and Financial Changes since the Onset of the COVID-19 PandemicBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found In 2020, the majority of which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) experienced a 9 percent drop in total mail volume when compared to 2019. The overall drop was primarily due to a 4 percent dip in First-Class Mail and a 14 percent decline in Marketing Mail (such as advertisements). Despite a drop in total volume, 2020 package volume rose by 32 percent. A surge of election-related mail caused a temporary spike in total mail volume in September and October 2020, before falling again by year end. Overall, USPS's nationwide on-time performance fell in 2020. Average monthly on-time performance for First-Class Mail decreased from 92 percent in 2019 to 87 percent in 2020. However, decreases were more significant in certain USPS districts at different times, and nationally in December 2020. On-time performance was 48 percent in New York in April and 61 percent in Baltimore in September—both of which were nearly 90 percent prior to the pandemic (see figure). Further, national on-time performance dipped to 69 percent in December. In February 2021, the Postmaster General stated that on-time performance was affected by employees' decreased availability in COVID-19 hot spots and a surge in holiday package volume. 2020 Average Monthly On-Time Performance for First-Class Mail in Baltimore, Detroit, and New York Postal Districts USPS's revenue increased in 2020 but not enough to avoid a net loss of $8.1 billion. Rapid growth and price increases for packages, resulted in a net revenue increase of $4.3 billion. However, USPS's expenses grew by $4.4 billion, including COVID-19 related expenses, such as personal protective equipment. USPS took some cost-reduction actions in 2020 and released a new strategic plan in March 2021 that also has cost-reduction actions. In May 2020, GAO concluded that absent congressional action to transform USPS, USPS's financial problems would worsen, putting its mission and financial solvency in greater peril. The further deterioration of USPS's financial position since the start of the pandemic makes the need for congressional action even more urgent. Why GAO Did This Study USPS plays a critical role in the nation's communications and commerce. However, USPS's financial viability is not on a sustainable path and has been on GAO's High Risk List since 2009. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of USPS in the nation's economy as well as USPS's financial difficulties. Responding to these concerns, the CARES Act, as amended in late 2020, provided USPS up to $10 billion in additional funding. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines changes in USPS's (1) mail volume, (2) on-time performance, and (3) revenue and expenses from January through December 2020. GAO analyzed USPS mail volume, on-time performance, revenue, and expense data by month for 2020, and compared these data to similar data for 2019. GAO also reviewed its prior work, including its May 2020 report. That report had three matters for congressional consideration on: (1) determining the level of postal services, (2) the extent to which those services should be financially self-sustaining, and (3) the appropriate institutional structure of USPS. GAO also reviewed reports by USPS and the USPS Inspector General. Finally, GAO interviewed USPS officials, two package delivery companies that compete with USPS, and representatives from four mailing associations whose members send the types of mail with the highest volumes in 2020. For more information, contact Jill Naamane at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Remarks As Prepared For Delivery By Katharine T. Sullivan Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Office Of Justice Programs At The Announcement Of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner GrantsBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for joining us. I’m Katie Sullivan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. I’m thrilled to be here today with the outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady. I’m also very pleased to be joined by Dr. Mary Ellen Glasgow, Dean of the Duquesne School of Nursing, and Dr. Alison Colbert, Associate Professor in the Duquesne School of Nursing. You’ll hear from each of them in just a moment. I also want to introduce my wonderful colleague, Jessica Hart, the Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, which is part of my agency.[Read More…]
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- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020Each weekday, the [Read More…]
- Marketing Company Agrees to Pay $150 Million for Facilitating Elder Fraud SchemesBy Sam NewsJanuary 27, 2021Epsilon Data Management LLC (Epsilon), one of the largest marketing companies in the world, has entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge for selling millions of Americans’ information to perpetrators of elder fraud schemes.[Read More…]
- Prescription Drugs: Department of Veterans Affairs Paid About Half as Much as Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs in 2017By Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021GAO found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid, on average, 54 percent less per unit for a sample of 399 brand-name and generic prescription drugs in 2017 as did Medicare Part D, even after accounting for applicable rebates and price concessions in the Part D program. GAO also found that 233 of the 399 drugs in the sample were at least 50 percent cheaper in VA than in Medicare, and 106 drugs were at least 75 percent cheaper. Only 43 drugs were cheaper in Medicare than in VA. The percent difference in price between the two programs was greater on average for generic drugs. Specifically, VA's prices were 68 percent lower than Medicare prices for the 203 generic drugs (an average difference of $0.19 per unit) and 49 percent lower for the 196 brand-name drugs (an average difference of $4.11 per unit). Average Per-Unit Net Prices Paid by Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs, 2017 Note: GAO's sample of 399 drugs included the top 100 brand-name and generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017, by: (1) highest expenditures; (2) highest utilization (by quantities dispensed); and (3) highest cost-per use. Per-unit prices are weighted to reflect differences in utilization in the two programs. Medicare prices reflect expenditures after accounting for rebates and other price concessions. While there are many factors that impact prices in the complex drug market, GAO identified several key program features that may contribute to the consistent price differential between VA and Medicare Part D. For example, Medicare's beneficiaries are divided among numerous prescription drug plans, which each negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. In contrast, VA is a single integrated health system with a unified list of covered drugs—thereby possibly strengthening its bargaining position when negotiating. In addition, VA has access to significant discounts defined by law, and can then negotiate further for lower prices. These discount prices are not available to Medicare Part D plans. GAO provided a draft of this product to HHS and VA for comment. Both agencies provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. In 2017, combined, Medicare Part D and VA accounted for approximately $105 billion in prescription drug sales—nearly one-third of total U.S. expenditures—and covered nearly 52 million individuals. The two programs use different methods to pay for prescription drugs. Medicare reimburses Part D plan sponsors, which in turn pay pharmacies to dispense drugs. VA primarily uses a direct purchase approach to acquire drugs from manufacturers. GAO was asked to examine differences in the amounts major federal programs paid for prescription drugs. This report: (1) compares average unit prices for prescription drugs in Medicare Part D to those in the VA; and (2) describes factors affecting prices in the two programs. GAO analyzed (1) CMS data for Medicare Part D payments to retail pharmacies as well as rebates and other price concessions Part D plans received and (2) VA drug purchasing data. These data were from 2017, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's analysis. To select a sample of drugs GAO identified the top 100 brand-name and 100 generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017 for three categories: (1) highest expenditure, (2) highest utilization, and (3) highest cost-per use. In total, this yielded 399 non-duplicate drugs (203 generic and 196 brand-name), which represented 44 percent of Medicare Part D spending in 2017. GAO compared weighted average unit prices for these drugs. GAO interviewed CMS and VA officials, and reviewed academic and government reports to understand factors that may affect prices in the two programs. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- University of Miami to Pay $22 Million to Settle Claims Involving Medically Unnecessary Laboratory Tests and Fraudulent Billing PracticesBy Sam NewsMay 10, 2021The University of Miami (UM) has agreed to pay $22 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by ordering medically unnecessary laboratory tests, and submitting false claims through its laboratory and off campus hospital based facilities (“Hospital Facilities”).[Read More…]
- Federal Court Shuts Down Atlanta Area Tax Return PreparerBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021The Justice Department announced today that a federal court in the Northern District of Georgia permanently enjoined the owner of tax preparation businesses in Suwanee, Georgia, from preparing federal tax returns for others.[Read More…]
- Anesthesia Services: Differences between Private and Medicare Payments Likely Due to Providers’ Strong Negotiating PositionBy Sam NewsOctober 26, 2020Literature GAO reviewed indicated that private insurance payments for anesthesia services on average were more than 3-1/2 times those of Medicare payments. This payment difference increased from what GAO reported in 2007—average private insurance payments for certain anesthesia services in 2004 were about 3 times those of Medicare. While Medicare rates for anesthesia services are set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), private insurance rates are set through negotiations between providers and private insurers. GAO identified three recent studies with analyses of private insurance and Medicare payments for anesthesia services: Researchers from Yale University calculated that private insurance payments were 3.67 times Medicare payments, on average, for services provided by anesthesiologists for one large private insurer in 2015 operating across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Health Care Cost Institute calculated that in 2017 private insurance payments ranged from 2 to 7 times Medicare payments, on average, across six common services provided by anesthesiologists in 33 states. Wide state-to-state variation within specific services was reported. The American Society of Anesthesiologists reported that private insurance payments were 3.46 times Medicare payments, on average, based on a survey of its members in 2019. According to studies GAO reviewed and stakeholders GAO interviewed, market factors likely enhanced anesthesia providers' negotiating position and allowed them to secure higher private payments. For example, several studies and stakeholders cited market concentration as a key factor that increased private payments for anesthesia services. In a market with high provider concentration—or relatively few providers in a given market—there is little competition between providers, enabling the providers within that market to negotiate for higher payments from private insurers. Studies also indicated that specialists, including anesthesia providers, could negotiate higher in-network payment rates because they were able to leave an insurer's network with little risk of losing patients or revenue. In addition, when anesthesia providers are not a part of a private insurer's network, they are typically able to bill for a higher amount than the insurer would pay for an in-network provider, known as out-of-network billing. This dynamic decreases providers' incentives to participate in insurer networks because it creates an attractive alternative to network participation. GAO's interviews with stakeholders, literature review, and review of agency data generally did not indicate that the supply of anesthesia providers was insufficient for Medicare beneficiaries. CMS data indicate that the number of active anesthesia providers per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries increased from 2010 through 2018 and that a very small number of anesthesia providers opted out of the Medicare program. Furthermore, researchers and stakeholders GAO interviewed were not aware of any issues with access to anesthesia services for Medicare beneficiaries, including those in traditionally underserved rural areas. In 2018, Medicare paid over $2 billion for anesthesia services, such as general anesthesia administered to beneficiaries undergoing surgical or other invasive procedures. The joint explanatory statement for the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 included a provision for GAO to update its 2007 report and examine how differences in payment rates for anesthesia services have changed since that time. In 2007, GAO reported that Medicare payments in 2004 for certain anesthesia services provided by anesthesiologists were on average 67 percent lower than private insurance payments in certain geographic areas—indicating that private payments were about 3 times more than Medicare payments at that time. This report describes what is known about (1) recent trends in differences between Medicare and private payments for anesthesia services, and (2) the sufficiency of the supply of anesthesia providers for Medicare beneficiaries. GAO reviewed literature and available published data on payment differences for anesthesia services, published in the United States since 2010. GAO also reviewed data from CMS on the number of anesthesia providers from 2010, 2018, and 2020. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizable selection of three research groups, two beneficiary advocacy groups, and five stakeholder groups, including those representing anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and hospitals, to obtain their perspectives on these issues. The Department of Health and Human Services provided no comments on this report. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases RiseBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsJuly 16, 2020At a time when some states are backtracking on plans to restore business and government operations, a number of federal courts also are slowing plans to reopen courthouse doors as coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers escalate in many states. In recent weeks, federal courts, especially in Sun Belt “hot spot” states, have issued orders extending courthouse closures, postponement of jury trials, and the use of video and teleconferencing for most or all proceedings. Most of the orders cited rising COVID-19 numbers.[Read More…]
- Financial Audit: IRS’s FY 2020 and FY 2019 Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsNovember 10, 2020In GAO's opinion, the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) fiscal years 2020 and 2019 financial statements are fairly presented in all material respects, and although certain controls could be improved, IRS maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2020. GAO's tests of IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements detected no reportable instances of noncompliance in fiscal year 2020. Limitations in the financial systems IRS uses to account for federal taxes receivable and other unpaid assessment balances, as well as other control deficiencies that led to errors in taxpayer accounts, continued to exist during fiscal year 2020.These control deficiencies affect IRS's ability to produce reliable financial statements without using significant compensating procedures. In addition, unresolved information system control deficiencies from prior audits, along with application and general control deficiencies that GAO identified in IRS's information systems in fiscal year 2020, placed IRS systems and financial and taxpayer data at risk of inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure. IRS continues to take steps to improve internal controls in these areas. However, the remaining deficiencies are significant enough to merit the attention of those charged with governance of IRS and therefore represent continuing significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting related to (1) unpaid assessments and (2) financial reporting systems. Continued management attention is essential to fully addressing these significant deficiencies. The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws contained a number of tax relief provisions to address financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Economic Impact Payments provisions in the CARES Act provided for direct payments for eligible individuals to be implemented through the tax code. Implementing the provisions related to these Economic Impact Payment required extensive IRS work, and resulted in it issuing approximately $275 billion in payments as of September 30, 2020. IRS faced difficulties in issuing these payments as rapidly as possible, such as in identifying eligible recipients, preventing improper payments, and combating fraud based on identity theft. IRS discusses the challenges in carrying out its responsibilities under the CARES Act in its unaudited Management's Discussion and Analysis, which is included with the financial statements. As part of monitoring and oversight of the federal government's efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, GAO has issued a number of reports on federal agencies' implementation of the CARES Act and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws, including reports providing information on, and recommendations to strengthen, IRS's implementation of the tax-related provisions. In accordance with the authority conferred by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended, GAO annually audits IRS's financial statements to determine whether (1) the financial statements are fairly presented and (2) IRS management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting. GAO also tests IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. IRS's tax collection activities are significant to overall federal receipts, and the effectiveness of its financial management is of substantial interest to Congress and the nation's taxpayers. Based on prior financial statement audits, GAO made numerous recommendations to IRS to address internal control deficiencies. GAO will continue to monitor, and will report separately, on IRS's progress in implementing prior recommendations that remain open. Consistent with past practice, GAO will also be separately reporting on the new internal control deficiencies identified in this year's audit and providing IRS recommendations for corrective actions to address them. In commenting on a draft of this report, IRS stated that it continues its efforts to improve its financial systems controls. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Roula Khalaf of The Financial TimesBy Sam NewsMay 4, 2021
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with French President MacronBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020
- CEO of Multibillion-dollar Software Company Indicted for Decades-long Tax Evasion and Wire Fraud SchemesBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A federal grand jury in San Francisco, California, returned a 39 count indictment charging Robert T. Brockman, the Chief Executive Officer of an Ohio-based software company, with tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering, and other offenses, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Tax Division, U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California, and Chief of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Jim Lee. The charges stem from an alleged decades-long scheme to conceal approximately $2 billion in income from the IRS as well as a scheme to defraud investors in the software company’s debt securities.[Read More…]
- Hospice Administrator Sentenced for Role in Hospice Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsFebruary 19, 2021The administrator of a Southern California hospice was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in prison for his role in a multimillion dollar hospice fraud scheme.[Read More…]
- Serbia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter HackBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020Three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.[Read More…]
- Remarks to the Community of Democracies 20th Anniversary Virtual ConferenceBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Stephen Biegun, Deputy [Read More…]
- New International Ocean Satellite Completes TestingBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020A team of engineers in [Read More…]