Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the formation of the Comptroller’s Workgroup on Pandemic Spending, an agency-led panel that will conduct a comprehensive review of state and federal COVID-related spending.
The workgroup, which was established this year by the Maryland General Assembly, will deliver a full inspection of pandemic fund expenditures, determine if the funds went to intended recipients and populations most in need, examine disparities in distribution, and identify possible predatory fraud and pandemic profiteering.
The workgroup is chaired by the Comptroller, is composed of key agency leadership – the Deputy Comptroller, the directors of the Comptroller’s General Accounting and Compliance divisions, and the directors of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates and the Office of Risk Management. The panel must submit four quarterly reports that include a full accounting of funds provided for pandemic relief and any fraud uncovered through the panel’s review of pandemic-related spending.
“As stewards of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money, it is our responsibility to ensure these funds are being used as expected and reaching those who need it most,” said Comptroller Franchot.
According to a press release:
The panel will meet biweekly, beginning in May. All sessions will be livestreamed and archived. Meeting topics will include unemployment insurance fraud, pandemic profiteering by large corporations, the legislative audit on the purchase of COVID-19 test kits from South Korea, emergency procurement practices and access to relief funds by small businesses and low-wage earners. The workgroup will also receive testimony from experts in fraud detection along with firsthand accounts from Marylanders affected by mishandled pandemic relief.
Since March 2020, the State of Maryland, county and local governments, businesses and taxpayers have received over $50 billion in federal funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State has expended billions more to procure goods and services and established pandemic relief programs to protect the health and economic welfare of its residents.
The workgroup will ask state agencies that expended state and federal aid in response to the pandemic to provide documentation on (1) how and where they expended COVID-related public funds; (2) the allocation of funds across business size, income levels, and by program; (3) fraudulent payments that may have been approved; and (4) what steps the agencies have taken to recover fraudulent expenditures.
The General Assembly fenced off $400,000 in Comptroller agency funds to establish and conduct this review. The workgroup must submit four quarterly reports that include a full accounting of funds provided for pandemic relief and any fraud uncovered through the panel’s review of pandemic-related spending.