A detailed oversight process has been built in to the $2.2 trillion rescue plan for the American economy, despite resistance from President Donald Trump who declared when the plan was being drafted, that he'd be the oversight.
The legislation, designed in part to help businesses and corporations hammered by closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, creates multiple layers of accountability for the billions of dollars in loans, grants and direct cash that will soon flow from the federal government.
The House passed the bill by voice vote on Friday and Trump signed it.
Trump immediately threw the oversight provisions into question, writing in a statement Friday night that the new law contains "several provisions that raise constitutional concerns." Trump said a new inspector general intended to monitor spending under the law would not be bound by requirements to report to the Congress "without delay."
His administration "will continue the practice of treating provisions like these as advisory and non-binding.," Trump said.
The bipartisan final package creates a trio of watchdogs, plus other checks, to try to ensure the money isn't misused. It establishes an oversight board made up of inspectors general, called the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, stands up a separate dedicated inspector general position at the Treasury Department and creates a new committee of experts that reports to Congress.
Other accountability measures include more money for watchdogs in multiple federal agencies and requirements that the administration file detailed reports that analyse the flow of cash as it happens.
Watchdog groups that track government spending and oversight said the bill wasn't perfect, but provides essential resources. Sean Moulton, a senior policy analyst at Project On Government Oversight, said his group is encouraged that there is "more than one lens of accountability" for the businesses that will be receiving the money.
Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said she believed that Trump's declaration that he could personally oversee the process likely ensured that stronger provisions were included. "It showed his hand," Gilbert said.
Australian Associated Press