Pandemic IG: “This office was set to almost fail, but we’re still successful.”

Special Inspector Bryan Miller, celebrating the first anniversary of the confirmation, looks back on the challenges and successes his office experienced in overseeing the new coronavirus rescue program and the resulting recession.

“We have made people challenge our jurisdiction. There are people who try to slow us down in different ways,” Miller said in an interview with government officials. “Last year I think we experienced it in a very successful way and in a very surprising way. In a way, this office was set to almost fail, but nevertheless. We are successful and get the job done. ”

Miller was nominated for the job in April 2020, after then-President Trump questioned the need for such a position in the first place. Signing Statement for the $ 2.2 Trillion CARES Act..Senate Confirmed On June 2, 2020 he Some skepticism For his recent work as an assistant and senior associate counsel at the White House Advisory Office. Miller has held many other high-level positions in the government since 1992, including senior positions in the Department of Justice, including IG of the General Procurement Department, Assistant Secretary of Justice, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Attorney General, and Special Counsel. I’ve been doing it. Medical fraud.

Miller’s office announced that it had a report on April 30 “Battle of turf” Together with the Treasury IG, he requested the Legal Adviser of the Justice Department to make a decision, which limited his jurisdiction. (Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Finance IG staff Made a statement Commitment to oversight of pandemic programs in response to the ruling).

Government officials interviewed Miller on Monday about the issue, overall pandemic surveillance over the past year, and his career in government. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

What were your biggest challenges and your biggest successes last year?

I think my biggest challenge was almost obvious. The biggest challenge is to start a new organization from scratch. Not only being competent, but being able to hire talented staff within a year was also a major challenge. At one point, I challenged myself because I just hired a special agent, an investigator, and it was temporarily held up. But we managed to get over it, and now we have special agents to investigate and auditors to audit.

Also … succeeded. We have innovatively considered ways to investigate CARES Act fraud. And from the beginning, I wanted to see what we call “multi-dip”, essentially “double dipping” …[These are] People who use the Cares Act program, perhaps one or more, two, sometimes three, or even four Cares Act programs.

And sometimes it’s okay. But if you haven’t told other programs that you’re actually receiving this money and you’re not using it for the purpose you’re requesting it for, that’s a problem … you If you say you need it for specific purposes, the purpose and the first program will handle that purpose and the rest of the money will be sucked up for your own personal use. This is a complete misuse and abuse of the program.

And since we’re only focusing on the CARES law, we wanted to make sure that people weren’t taking advantage of that fact (and it would be a special inspector general rather than a general inspector general. (It’s one of the benefits of) We decided to take a look at those programs. We are examining different sets of information and data to prevent it, identify it, and track people who are abusing the program.

We believe we have sent over 100 referrals based on our own analysis, data research, research of people benefiting from the program, and identification of fraud. I have very experienced special agents, very experienced people doing data analysis, and very experienced federal prosecutors, so they know how to put the case together. I know how to put the case together, and we do it. And I think that is the greatest achievement.

We have made people challenge our jurisdiction. I think last year we got over it in a very successful way and in a very surprising way, as there were people trying to slow us down in different ways. In a way, this office was set to almost fail, but we’re still successful and getting the job done.

Was there a fallout from a report your office released at the turf battle a little over a week ago? Has there been any reaction from lawmakers to your proposal to amend the law to overturn the Legal Adviser’s decision?

We have worked with several lawmakers. Proposed additional wording to the bill to regain jurisdiction over these major programs managed by the Treasury. So we’re working with lawmakers, but obviously we have more support available, and obviously the more people who know it, the better it will be. .. When the position was established, a member of the CARES Act came out more than a year ago and said: “This position is important to get the support of the CARES Act itself and to provide assistance to struggling businesses, states, municipalities and other problematic entities.”

There is a lot of interest in congressional concerns and the establishment of a special inspector for a pandemic recovery … We are looking at the CARES Law Program managed by the Treasury, so the Office of Legal Counsel disappoints us Did not uphold our jurisdiction. There is only one issue and we are currently working on it.

Nevertheless, we are still overcoming it. We still get information from various sources. Part of the problem was that when the Treasury Inspector General raised the bar for this jurisdiction and blocked the information obtained from the Treasury, he had access to information about these programs and turned off the spigot. .. It slowed us down. However, there are other ways to get the information. So we continue to do innovative work. We work directly with federal prosecutors and do a great job.

Do you oversee the implementation of the COVID Relief Package and / or the US Relief Program enacted in December 2020?

Well, we weren’t mentioned in them, and that was another disappointment.Senator [Mike] Kurapo, [R-Idaho,] Prompted [Treasury] A secretary to make sure we are included in the surveillance provided even with the new law. Ultimately, I hope it will be reflected in the legislation that makes it clear.

If so, did you get any insights or advice from other special IGs (especially the IG of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Office)? I also faced jurisdiction issues)?

yes, I have.I talked to other special inspectors [and] Former Special Inspector General. They all experienced the same kind of struggle and gave me some advice. They encouraged people like you to talk about this and made sure Congress knew what was at stake. They are facing the same problem. As you might think we’ve learned, it’s never changed, but other inspectors have similar problems. A special inspector for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) wrote a book called “Bailout.” There, from the perspective of tension with the Ministry of Finance IG, financing, and even from the perspective of jurisdiction. And finally, he was able to get some laws to help him.

Did you bring as many whistleblowers to your office as far as you can talk about this?I know in you Initial report In August 2020, I wrote about the establishment of a whistleblower hotline.

There are whistleblower complaints, the hotline is working, and we are investigating whistleblower complaints. As I’ve said many times in the past, we get some of our best information from insiders, whistling people, and people who are brave enough to actually inform us. .. Therefore, it is important that we protect them and use the information that we follow up with whistleblowers. So we are receiving them.

Now, looking at the view from 10,000 feet, you first embarked on government about 29 years ago. Did you learn anything from your previous role that helped you in this new job?

I have about 30 years of experience in the federal government and have played various roles as a career lawyer in the Justice Department, some of whom were federal prosecutors. And I was in private practice for a while. I think I’ve gained a lot of insight and experience in deciding which audits should and shouldn’t be done because I want to put these cases together and make sure they’re always done. The difference and what we contribute. I think I learned a lot in making good decisions about what we are doing and trying to fulfill our role. We also learned a lot about the interests of the government and various institutions and branches, how the government works, how it doesn’t work more accurately, and how to solve those glitches and problems. ..

Returning to the pandemic, An episode of a government executive podcast Aired on May 11, 2020-essentially a year ago-I talked about your confirmation hearing coverage and used the “Rorschach test” metaphor to explain the reaction to them. Was it a good metaphor, why, why not?

I think it was a great analogy. In fact, I used it. I had a hard time remembering who suggested it to me, I knew it wasn’t original to me, but now I trust you. But I think it’s very true. If people have worked with me, whatever their party affiliation or politics, they know I will approach it fairly and honestly. And that is reflected in some of the letters sent in support of my nomination. An assistant US lawyer, a former US assistant lawyer, and other prosecutors wrote for me.

I think it’s a matter of who you ask and what they see. Obviously, I believe it is fair and independent. I think my history shows that. I was critical of Bush’s appointed man, so the president fired her. Then in the next administration, I was also critical of the programs run by the institution. It doesn’t matter what politics is. I think it’s more important to comply with the law, apply the facts, and drop tips everywhere. Then we move forward. People who are interested in politics are always interested in politics, [will] Because that’s what they are interested in. It’s not something I’m interested in, so try to describe the event in a political way.

Is there anything else I would like to add to the readers of government executives, or is there anything I need to know?

Well, I hope many of your readers remember me from my tenure as a GSA Inspector General. They probably remembered me as a prosecutor long ago, but I was fortunate enough to be involved in a fairly high-level case as a federal prosecutor. Pandemic IG: “This office was set to almost fail, but we’re still successful.”

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