The U.S. House of Representatives today approved H.R. 1343, authored by Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH), which improves accountability and transparency for broadband stimulus spending, by unanimous consent. The 2009 stimulus program allocated approximately $7 billion in taxpayer dollars to two broadband-related grant and loan programs administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utility Service. H.R. 1343 requires both agencies to terminate an award and return the funds to the U.S. Treasury if they find waste, fraud, or insufficient performance.
"The recent Solyndra scandal highlights the need to provide oversight and accountability for the stimulus program. Earlier this year, two inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office expressed concerns over these programs. This legislation improves oversight of the awards and clarifies ambiguities regarding what happens to returned or reclaimed funds. For example, if an inspector general flags a potential problem with a project, the NTIA or RUS must determine what action to take within 30 days and tell Congress what it has done. With such large sums of money, it is wise to provide proper oversight and protect the American taxpayers from more wasteful and fraudulent spending," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
Congressman Bass said, "This legislation is a taxpayer protection measure and will ensure that our law is definitive and quick to reclaim funds if there is reason to terminate an award for reasons of waste, fraud or insufficient performance. It only makes sense that Congress requires an accounting of how these funds are being spent and what the American taxpayer is getting for them. Our efforts should be centered on ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and on maximizing the potential for economic growth and job creation."
Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said, "With the bad taste of Solyndra still lingering, when Congress uses billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize broadband in competition with the private sector--especially when 95 percent of the country already has access--taxpayers deserve accountability from their government."