Assessing the Future of the Recovery Operations Center

September 23, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

green-computer-1552038Years ago, Prudential Insurance was known for its ad jingle, “Get a Piece of the Rock.” That jingle was the first thing that came to my mind back in 2009 when, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board established the Recovery Operations Center, or as it was more commonly known, the “ROC”. The ROC housed an accountability analytic group that focused on mitigating fraud, waste and abuse of Recovery Act funds. The analysts were supported with software and data sets that helped them detect possible misuse of funds, requiring further investigation.

After the Recovery Act sunset in 2013, Congress expanded the Recovery Board’s mandate to include oversight of other federal spending, and most recently through the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) authorized the Department of the Treasury to transfer ROC’s assets to Treasury by Sept. 30, when the Recovery Board closes. The ROC researched about 1.7 million entities associated with $36.4 billion in federal funds in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and developed numerous specialized data-analytic capabilities.

Now the benefits gained in boosting accountability in funding by creating the ROC are threatened. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, Treasury does not plan to transfer the ROC’s assets, such as hardware and software, citing cost, lack of investigative authority and other reasons. Because Treasury does not plan to transfer the assets, the ROC’s users must consider alternatives when the Recovery Board closes. While some large federal Offices of Inspectors General that have used the ROC in the past told GAO they intend to develop their own analytical capabilities, smaller OIGs said they don’t have the resources to develop independent data analytics or pay for a similar service, thus foregoing the ROC’s capabilities. The Council of the Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) could take over some of the ROC’s analytic capabilities and has explored options to do so, GAO added, although it also doesn’t currently have the resources to accomplish this.

The GAO recommended that Congress maintain the ROC’s analytic capabilities by directing CIGIE to develop a proposal to help ensure federal spending accountability. CIGIE said it supports assuming additional analytical functions for the OIG community with additional funding. We feel that the analytical functionality enabled by the ROC is too important to let fall by the wayside. With the federal government spending $125 billion in improper payments annually, analytical tools such as those provided by the ROC are critical in helping to limit more improper payments in the future. Perhaps the jingle should be changed from “Get a Piece of the Rock” to “Keep the ROC Alive.”

Let us know how you feel about the future of the ROC and why you think it is important in preventing waste, fraud and abuse.

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