December 9, 2021

News

News Network

Small Business Administration: COVID-19 Loans Lack Controls and Are Susceptible to Fraud

11 min read
<div>In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) moved quickly to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans that are forgivable under certain circumstances to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Given the immediate need for these loans, SBA worked to streamline the program so that lenders could begin distributing these funds as soon as possible. For example, lenders were permitted to rely on borrowers' self-certifications for eligibility and use of loan proceeds. As a result, there may be significant risk that some fraudulent or inflated applications were approved. Since May 2020, the Department of Justice has publicly announced charges in more than 50 fraud-related cases associated with PPP funds. In April 2020, SBA announced it would review all loans of more than $2 million to confirm borrower eligibility, and SBA officials subsequently stated that they would review selected loans of less than $2 million to determine, for example, whether the borrower is entitled to loan forgiveness. However, SBA did not provide details on how it would conduct either of these reviews. As of September 2020, SBA reported it was working with the Department of the Treasury and contractors to finalize the plans for the reviews. Because SBA had limited time to implement safeguards up front for loan approval, GAO believes that planning and oversight by SBA to address risks in the PPP program is crucial moving forward. SBA's efforts to expedite processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)—such as the reliance on self-certification—may have contributed to increased fraud risk in that program as well. In July 2020, SBA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported indicators of widespread potential fraud—including thousands of fraud complaints—and found deficiencies with SBA's internal controls. In response, SBA maintained that its internal controls for EIDL were robust, including checks to identify duplicate applications and verify account information, and that it had provided banks with additional antifraud guidance. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, also has taken actions to address potential fraud. Since May 2020, the department has announced fraud investigations related to the EIDL program and charges against recipients related to EIDL fraud. SBA has made or guaranteed more than 14.5 million loans and grants through PPP and EIDL, providing about $729 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. However, the speed with which SBA implemented the programs may have increased their susceptibility to fraud. This testimony discusses fraud risks associated with SBA's PPP and EIDL programs. It is based largely on GAO's reports in June 2020 (GAO-20-625) and September 2020 (GAO-20-701) that addressed the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and interviewed officials from SBA, the Department of the Treasury, and associations that represent lenders and small businesses. GAO also met with officials from the SBA OIG and reviewed OIG reports. In its June 2020 report, GAO recommended that SBA develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. SBA neither agreed nor disagreed, but GAO believes implementation of this recommendation is essential. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-4325 or shearw@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) moved quickly to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans that are forgivable under certain circumstances to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Given the immediate need for these loans, SBA worked to streamline the program so that lenders could begin distributing these funds as soon as possible. For example, lenders were permitted to rely on borrowers’ self-certifications for eligibility and use of loan proceeds. As a result, there may be significant risk that some fraudulent or inflated applications were approved. Since May 2020, the Department of Justice has publicly announced charges in more than 50 fraud-related cases associated with PPP funds. In April 2020, SBA announced it would review all loans of more than $2 million to confirm borrower eligibility, and SBA officials subsequently stated that they would review selected loans of less than $2 million to determine, for example, whether the borrower is entitled to loan forgiveness. However, SBA did not provide details on how it would conduct either of these reviews. As of September 2020, SBA reported it was working with the Department of the Treasury and contractors to finalize the plans for the reviews. Because SBA had limited time to implement safeguards up front for loan approval, GAO believes that planning and oversight by SBA to address risks in the PPP program is crucial moving forward.

SBA’s efforts to expedite processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)—such as the reliance on self-certification—may have contributed to increased fraud risk in that program as well. In July 2020, SBA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported indicators of widespread potential fraud—including thousands of fraud complaints—and found deficiencies with SBA’s internal controls. In response, SBA maintained that its internal controls for EIDL were robust, including checks to identify duplicate applications and verify account information, and that it had provided banks with additional antifraud guidance. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, also has taken actions to address potential fraud. Since May 2020, the department has announced fraud investigations related to the EIDL program and charges against recipients related to EIDL fraud.

Why GAO Did This Study

SBA has made or guaranteed more than 14.5 million loans and grants through PPP and EIDL, providing about $729 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. However, the speed with which SBA implemented the programs may have increased their susceptibility to fraud.

This testimony discusses fraud risks associated with SBA’s PPP and EIDL programs. It is based largely on GAO’s reports in June 2020 (GAO-20-625) and September 2020 (GAO-20-701) that addressed the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and interviewed officials from SBA, the Department of the Treasury, and associations that represent lenders and small businesses. GAO also met with officials from the SBA OIG and reviewed OIG reports.

What GAO Recommends

In its June 2020 report, GAO recommended that SBA develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. SBA neither agreed nor disagreed, but GAO believes implementation of this recommendation is essential.

For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-4325 or shearw@gao.gov.

News Network

  • Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Facilitate Adoptions from Uganda Through Bribery and Fraud
    In Crime Control and Security News
    U.S. Department of [Read More…]
  • Designation of Chinese Communist Party Official Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Quadrennial Defense Review: Future Reviews Could Benefit from Improved Department of Defense Analyses and Changes to Legislative Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) is required by law to conduct a comprehensive examination of the national defense strategy, force structure, modernization plans, infrastructure, and budget every 4 years including an assessment of the force structure best suited to implement the defense strategy at low-to-moderate level of risk. The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), completed in February 2006, represents the first comprehensive review that DOD had undertaken since the military forces have been engaged in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. GAO was asked to assess (1) the strengths and weaknesses of DOD's approach and methodology for the 2006 QDR and (2) what changes, if any, in the QDR legislation could improve the usefulness of the report, including any changes that would better reflect 21st century security conditions. To conduct its review, GAO analyzed DOD's methodology, QDR study guidance, and results from key analyses and also obtained views of defense analysts within and outside of DOD.DOD's approach and methodology for the 2006 QDR had several strengths, but several weaknesses significantly limited the review's usefulness in addressing force structure, personnel requirements, and risk associated with executing the national defense strategy. Key strengths of the QDR included sustained involvement of senior DOD officials, extensive collaboration with interagency partners and allied countries, and a database to track implementation of initiatives. However, GAO found weaknesses in three key areas. First, DOD did not conduct a comprehensive, integrated assessment of different options for organizing and sizing its forces to provide needed capabilities. Without such an assessment, DOD is not well positioned to balance capability needs and risks within future budgets, given the nation's fiscal challenges. Second, DOD did not provide a clear analytical basis for its conclusion that it had the appropriate number of personnel to meet current and projected demands. During its review, DOD did not consider changing personnel levels and instead focused on altering the skill mix. However, a year after the QDR report was issued, DOD announced plans to increase Army and Marine Corps personnel by 92,000. Without performing a comprehensive analysis of the number of personnel it needs, DOD cannot provide an analytical basis that its military and civilian personnel levels reflect the number of personnel needed to execute the defense strategy. Third, the risk assessments conducted by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which are required by the QDR legislation, did not fully apply DOD's risk management framework because DOD had not developed assessment tools to measure risk. Without a sound analytical approach to assessing risk, DOD may not be able to demonstrate how it will manage risk within current and expected resource levels. As a result, DOD is not in the best position to demonstrate that it has identified the force structure best suited to implement the defense strategy at low-to-moderate risk. Through discussions with DOD officials and defense analysts, GAO has identified several options for refining the QDR legislative language that Congress could consider to improve the usefulness of future QDRs, including changes to encourage DOD to focus on high priority strategic issues and better reflect security conditions of the 21st century. Congress could consider options to clarify its expectations regarding what budget information DOD should include in the QDR and eliminate reporting elements for issues that could be addressed in different reports. For example, the requirement to assess revisions to the unified command plan is also required and reported under other legislation. Further, some reporting elements such as how resources would be shifted between two conflicts could be eliminated in light of DOD's new planning approach that focuses on capabilities to meet a range of threats rather than on the allocation of forces for specific adversaries. GAO also presents an option to have an advisory group work with DOD prior to and during the QDR to provide DOD with alternative perspectives and analyses.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a Joint Press Availability
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • CEO of Major Defense Contractor Charged with Bribery
    In Crime News
    The chief executive officer (CEO) of Multinational Logistics Services (MLS), a large ship husbanding company that has received over $1 billion in U.S. Navy contracts since 2010, appeared in the United States today to face a criminal charge for his alleged participation in a bribery scheme.
    [Read More…]
  • Military Vehicles: Army and Marine Corps Should Take Additional Actions to Mitigate and Prevent Training Accidents
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The number of serious accidents involving Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicles, such as tanks and trucks, and the number of resulting deaths, fluctuated from fiscal years 2010 through 2019 (see figure). Driver inattentiveness, lapses in supervision, and lack of training were among the most common causes of these accidents, according to GAO analysis of Army and Marine Corps data. Number of Army and Marine Corps Class A and B Tactical Vehicle Accidents and Resulting Military Deaths, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019 Note: Class A and B accidents have the most serious injuries and financial costs. The Army and Marine Corps established practices to mitigate and prevent tactical vehicle accidents, but units did not consistently implement these practices. GAO found that issues affecting vehicle commanders and unit safety officers hindered Army and Marine Corps efforts to implement risk management practices. For example, the Army and Marine Corps had not clearly defined the roles or put procedures and mechanisms in place for first-line supervisors, such as vehicle commanders, to effectively perform their role. As a result, implementation of risk management practices, such as following speed limits and using seat belts, was ad hoc among units. The Army and Marine Corps provide training for drivers of tactical vehicles that can include formal instruction, unit licensing, and follow-on training, but their respective programs to build driver skills and experience had gaps. GAO found that factors, such as vehicle type and unit priorities, affected the amount of training that vehicle drivers received. Further, licensing classes were often condensed into shorter periods of time than planned with limited drive time, and unit training focused on other priorities rather than driving, according to the units that GAO interviewed. The Army and Marine Corps have taken steps to improve their driver training programs, but have not developed a well-defined process with performance criteria and measurable standards to train their tactical vehicle drivers from basic qualifications to proficiency in diverse driving conditions, such as driving at night or over varied terrain. Developing performance criteria and measurable standards for training would better assure that Army and Marine Corps drivers have the skills to operate tactical vehicles safely and effectively. Why GAO Did This Study Tactical vehicles are used to train military personnel and to achieve a variety of missions. Both the Army and Marine Corps have experienced tactical vehicle accidents that resulted in deaths of military personnel during non-combat scenarios. GAO was asked to review issues related to the Army's and Marine Corps' use of tactical vehicles. Among other things, this report examines (1) trends from fiscal years 2010 through 2019 in reported Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicle accidents, deaths, and reported causes; and evaluates the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps have (2) taken steps to mitigate and prevent accidents during tactical vehicle operations; and (3) provided personnel with training to build the skills and experience needed to drive tactical vehicles. GAO analyzed accident data from fiscal years 2010 through 2019 (the most recent full year of data at the time of analysis); reviewed documents; and interviewed officials from a non-generalizable sample of units and training ranges selected based on factors, such as locations where accidents occurred.
    [Read More…]
  • Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne Illnesses
    In U.S GAO News
    The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Two Individuals Charged with Bribery Related to Iraq Contracts
    In Crime News
    Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.
    [Read More…]
  • NFL Player Charged for Role in $24 Million COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    An NFL player has been charged for his alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $24 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s call with KRG Prime Minister Barzani
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Presidential Election in The Gambia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Couple Convicted in Employment and Income Tax Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal jury sitting in Greensboro, North Carolina, convicted a North Carolina couple of conspiring to defraud the IRS and other federal employment tax and income tax violations.
    [Read More…]
  • Slilpp Marketplace Disrupted in International Cyber Operation
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced its participation in a multinational operation involving actions in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Romania to disrupt and take down the infrastructure of the online marketplace known as Slilpp.
    [Read More…]
  • Michigan Man Charged with Hate Crimes for Attacking African-American Teenager
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that Lee Mouat, 42, has been charged by criminal complaint in federal district court with violating 18 U.S.C. § 249 by willfully causing bodily injury to an African-American teenager because of the teenager’s race.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • How NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Reach the Red Planet’s Surface
    In Space
    The small craft will [Read More…]
  • Guinea-Bissau Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Puerto Rico Legislator Indicted for Theft, Bribery, and Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against legislator María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, as well as her husband Orlando Montes-Rivera (Montes), their son Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier, and her assistant Frances Acevedo-Ceballos (Acevedo), for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.
    [Read More…]
  • Special Envoy Malley’s Trip to the Middle East 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Former Police Detective and FBI Task Force Officer Convicted of Bribery and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
    A federal jury convicted a veteran detective for the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Police Department, who was also a task force officer with the FBI and a member of the Cumberland County Drug Task Force, today of bribery, drug distribution and making false statements.
    [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.