Federal auditors charged with overseeing the two programs that provided grants to spur broadband access and adoption say absent close oversight, there are potential risks for fraud and abuse of the two programs.
In written testimony obtained by Tech Daily Dose for a hearing Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, the inspectors general for the Agriculture and Commerce departments and a Government Accountability Office official outlined several areas that will need close scrutiny. They will be joined at the hearing by two industry officials affected by the broadband stimulus program.
The hearing will focus on the $7.2 billion in funding from the 2009 economic stimulus package provided to spur broadband access and adoption, which has been awarded through grants and loans from the Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service. NTIA was given $4.7 billion for its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, while RUS received the remaining $2.5 billion for its Broadband Initiatives Program.
GAO's Mark L. Goldstein noted in his written testimony that both NTIA and RUS have adopted many of the agency's past recommendations aimed at providing successful oversight of the 553 projects funded by the stimulus funds such as developing oversight plans.
Still, he added that, "GAO remains concerned about the oversight of the broadband programs. In particular, GAO believes the agencies, and especially NTIA, need to do more to ensure their oversight plans reflect current fiscal realities."