December 5, 2021

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Former Energy Broker Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading and Kickback Scheme

11 min read
<div>A former Texas energy broker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme. </div>
A former Texas energy broker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme. 

More from: June 15, 2021

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    In U.S GAO News
    Like other U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico implements major functions of its Medicaid program by procuring services from contractors, such as the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2018, procurement costs represented $2.4 billion of Puerto Rico's $2.5 billion in total Medicaid expenditures. A 2019 federal indictment alleging Puerto Rico officials unlawfully steered Medicaid contracts to certain individuals has raised concerns about Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process, including whether this process helps ensure appropriate competition. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for overseeing the Medicaid program. CMS requires states and territories to use the same process for Medicaid procurements as they do for their non-federal procurements. However, CMS has not taken steps to ensure Puerto Rico has met this requirement. Instead, CMS has relied on Puerto Rico to oversee the territory's procurement process and to attest to its compliance. CMS approved Puerto Rico's attestation of compliance in 2004 and has not required subsequent updates. CMS officials told GAO that states and territories are in the best position to ensure compliance with their respective procurement laws. GAO and others have found that competition is a cornerstone of procurement. Using competition can reduce costs, improve contractor performance, curb fraud, and promote accountability. GAO reviewed selected Puerto Rico Medicaid procurements against federal procurement standards designed to promote competition and reduce risks of fraud. States and territories are generally not required to meet such standards. However, GAO and others have found that such standards can indicate whether a state's or territory's procurement process includes necessary steps to achieve fair competition. GAO found that seven of the eight selected Puerto Rico procurements did not include important steps to promote competition and mitigate the risk for fraud, waste, and abuse, underscoring the need for federal oversight. Competitive procurements. The requests for proposals for two of the three competitive procurements GAO reviewed did not include certain information on factors used to evaluate proposals and make awards. In contrast, Puerto Rico's managed care procurement—the largest procurement reviewed—included this information. Noncompetitive procurements. None of the five noncompetitive procurements GAO reviewed documented circumstances to justify not using competitive procurements, such as a lack of competition or an emergency. Puerto Rico officials explained that territorial law allows noncompetitive procurement for professional services regardless of circumstances. Because CMS does not oversee Puerto Rico's procurement process, the agency lacks assurance that Puerto Rico's Medicaid program is appropriately managing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Procurements that did not include important steps to promote competition could have unnecessarily increased Medicaid costs, reducing funding for Medicaid services to beneficiaries. States' and U.S. territories' Medicaid procurement processes can directly affect their ability to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the program. A 2019 federal indictment alleging fraudulent Medicaid procurements in Puerto Rico has raised questions about the program's oversight. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review oversight of Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process and its use of competition. This report examines CMS oversight of Puerto Rico's procurement process from its initial steps through the award, and how it helps ensure competition. GAO reviewed federal regulations, guidance, and Puerto Rico's December 2020 procurement reform plan; interviewed Puerto Rico and federal officials; and reviewed eight awards that represented about 97 percent of the costs of Puerto Rico's procurements in effect as of April 2020. These procurements were selected based on variation in cost, use of competition, and other factors. GAO assessed whether CMS addressed risks in Puerto Rico's procurement process by reviewing selected procurements against certain federal standards that apply to other non-federal entities and aim to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. GAO also assessed CMS's policies and procedures against federal internal control standards. GAO recommends that CMS implement risk-based oversight of the Medicaid procurement process in Puerto Rico. The Department of Health and Human Services concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or YocomC@gao.gov.
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  • Homelessness: HUD Should Help Communities Better Leverage Data to Estimate Homelessness
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    What GAO Found The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is a nationwide count of people experiencing homelessness on a single night, conducted by Continuums of Care (CoC)—local planning bodies that coordinate homelessness services. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows CoCs to use different methods to estimate homeless populations—including a census (complete count), sampling, or a combination of these. For counting unsheltered individuals (those on the street or in other uninhabitable places), HUD requires CoCs to use in-person methods—for example, by having enumerators visually locate and attempt to ask questions of these individuals on the night of the count. HUD permits CoCs to also use administrative data—that is, records collected by public and nonprofit agencies on people who use their services. However, HUD does not provide CoCs with examples of how to extract and use administrative data for the unsheltered count. By doing so, HUD could help improve the quality and consistency of CoCs' estimates and position CoCs to provide better estimates, particularly if in-person counts are again disrupted, as they were in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. PIT count is similar to Canada's and England's approaches in that they are nationally administered and localities can choose among various approved methods to conduct in-person local counts. The Netherlands and Australia use more centralized methods and statistical analyses to develop estimates. For example, Australia produces an estimate using data from the general census of the population. Little comprehensive data exist on PIT count costs, but a GAO survey of 41 CoCs provided information on funding sources and key resources required from their most recent unsheltered PIT count prior to 2021: Of the 41 CoCs, 31 used HUD funds, 19 used state or local funds, and 10 used private donations (often in combination with government funds). All 41 CoCs reported using volunteers to complete their PIT counts, with large cities using the most volunteer hours. Respondents reported an average of 4.8 work hours (paid staff and volunteers) for every person counted in their PIT count of unsheltered individuals. The most common PIT count costs were for incentives for volunteers and meals. Examples of Homeless Encampments in Oakland, California, in 2021 Why GAO Did This Study HUD's PIT count is a key tool for estimating the size of the U.S. homeless population. However, developing an accurate understanding of the extent of homelessness is challenging due to the hidden nature of the population. Further, some members of Congress and others have raised questions about the reliability of HUD's estimates. GAO was asked to review the PIT count and alternative methods for estimating the size of homeless populations. This report (1) examines communities' approaches for counting people experiencing homelessness and HUD's guidance for using these approaches, (2) describes approaches used by selected foreign countries to estimate their homeless populations, and (3) describes what is known about funding sources and resources expended by selected communities in conducing the PIT count. GAO conducted a literature review to identify methods to estimate homelessness and selected four countries for case study based on a literature review and recommendations from researchers. GAO also surveyed a nongeneralizable sample of 60 CoCs and received responses from 41 of them about PIT count costs and funding sources, reviewed agency guidance and documents, and interviewed U.S. and foreign government officials.
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  • Information Technology: Agencies Need to Develop and Implement Modernization Plans for Critical Legacy Systems
    In U.S GAO News
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