Bailout watchdog: Treasury not cooperating

The woman in charge of a congressional oversight panel on TARP says Congress may have to pass new laws requiring Treasury to consult with her.

Published March 31, 2009 7:50PM (EDT)

With $700 billion in taxpayer money at stake, it's not exactly comforting to hear from the people charged with oversight that there's not enough accounting of where that money is going and not enough cooperation on the part of the Treasury Department. But that's what has been going on in a hearing held by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor who heads the Congressional Oversight Panel, testified that the Treasury Department hasn't made any effort to monitor the bailout funding that's now been disbursed to 364 banks in total. "Either you get Treasury to get some religion on this point and get some standards... or Congress [will be] forced to step in," she said. Warren also told the committee that her concerns "do not seem to be a priority for the Treasury Department" or its head, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Warren suggested that if that doesn't change, Congress might need to pass legislation mandating Treasury's cooperation.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the TARP program, had fared a little better in his investigation of how the money was flowing. His office surveyed all 364 banks, and heard back from all of them, in some cases with a specific accounting of where the TARP funds had gone. In other cases, though, the banks had spread the money around, mixing it with other funds, and couldn't really account for it. "Treasury should require TARP recipients to monitor their use of funds and be required to provided certified reports to Treasury on how they are using taxpayer money," Barofsky said, noting that this recommendation had been made as early as last December, but has not yet been heeded.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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