December 4, 2021

News

News Network

Venezuela: Additional Tracking Could Aid Treasury’s Efforts to Mitigate Any Adverse Impacts U.S. Sanctions Might Have on Humanitarian Assistance

14 min read
<div>The Venezuelan economy's performance has declined steadily for almost a decade and fallen steeply since the imposition of a series of U.S. sanctions starting in 2015. For example, the economy declined from negative 6.2 percent gross domestic product growth in 2015 to negative 35 percent in 2019 and negative 25 percent in 2020. The sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy, primarily by limiting revenue from oil production. However, mismanagement of Venezuela's state oil company and decreasing oil prices are among other factors that have also affected the economy's performance during this period. U.S. agencies have sought input from humanitarian organizations to identify the potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela and taken steps to mitigate these issues. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) have solicited input from U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations on challenges they face, including the impact of sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and State have also taken steps to mitigate negative consequences. For example, Treasury issued licenses permitting various types of humanitarian assistance transactions in Venezuela (see figure). Treasury also maintains a call center and email account through which organizations can receive assistance with compliance issues or other challenges related to sanctions. While Treasury officials told GAO they respond to individual inquiries, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurrent issues. Without collection and analysis of this information, Treasury and its interagency partners may be limited in their ability to develop further actions to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. Despite an overall lower supply of oil in the U.S. market from the loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, crude oil and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have not increased substantially. Many other factors in addition to the sanctions simultaneously affected the oil market and the price of crude oil and retail gasoline prices, including production cuts in January 2019 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and decreased demand for energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry officials to whom GAO spoke, U.S. refineries have adjusted to these changes by shifting to alternative sources and types of crude oil. Venezuela has been experiencing an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, government, and central bank, among others, in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and certain individuals. Treasury and the Department of State lead the implementation of the sanctions program, and USAID is primarily responsible for implementing humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans. GAO was asked to review U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela. This report examines: (1) how the Venezuelan economy performed before and since the imposition of sanctions in 2015; (2) the steps U.S. agencies have taken to identify and mitigate potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela; and (3) what is known about the impact of U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela on the U.S. oil industry. GAO analyzed economic indicators, reviewed documents, interviewed agency officials, and spoke with representatives from selected humanitarian organizations and the U.S oil industry. GAO recommends that Treasury systematically track inquiries made to its call center and email account, including the specific sanctions program and the subject matter of the inquiry to identify trends and recurring issues. Treasury concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

The Venezuelan economy’s performance has declined steadily for almost a decade and fallen steeply since the imposition of a series of U.S. sanctions starting in 2015. For example, the economy declined from negative 6.2 percent gross domestic product growth in 2015 to negative 35 percent in 2019 and negative 25 percent in 2020. The sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy, primarily by limiting revenue from oil production. However, mismanagement of Venezuela’s state oil company and decreasing oil prices are among other factors that have also affected the economy’s performance during this period.

U.S. agencies have sought input from humanitarian organizations to identify the potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela and taken steps to mitigate these issues. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) have solicited input from U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations on challenges they face, including the impact of sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and State have also taken steps to mitigate negative consequences. For example, Treasury issued licenses permitting various types of humanitarian assistance transactions in Venezuela (see figure). Treasury also maintains a call center and email account through which organizations can receive assistance with compliance issues or other challenges related to sanctions. While Treasury officials told GAO they respond to individual inquiries, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurrent issues. Without collection and analysis of this information, Treasury and its interagency partners may be limited in their ability to develop further actions to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance.

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans

U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. Despite an overall lower supply of oil in the U.S. market from the loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, crude oil and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have not increased substantially. Many other factors in addition to the sanctions simultaneously affected the oil market and the price of crude oil and retail gasoline prices, including production cuts in January 2019 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and decreased demand for energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry officials to whom GAO spoke, U.S. refineries have adjusted to these changes by shifting to alternative sources and types of crude oil.

Why GAO Did This Study

Venezuela has been experiencing an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, government, and central bank, among others, in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and certain individuals. Treasury and the Department of State lead the implementation of the sanctions program, and USAID is primarily responsible for implementing humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans.

GAO was asked to review U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela. This report examines: (1) how the Venezuelan economy performed before and since the imposition of sanctions in 2015; (2) the steps U.S. agencies have taken to identify and mitigate potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela; and (3) what is known about the impact of U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela on the U.S. oil industry.

GAO analyzed economic indicators, reviewed documents, interviewed agency officials, and spoke with representatives from selected humanitarian organizations and the U.S oil industry.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that Treasury systematically track inquiries made to its call center and email account, including the specific sanctions program and the subject matter of the inquiry to identify trends and recurring issues. Treasury concurred with GAO’s recommendation.

For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov.

More from:

News Network

  • Justice Department Charges 500+ Domestic Violence-Related Firearm Cases in Fiscal Year 2020
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 500 domestic violence cases involving firearms during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. A department priority since 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr created the Department of Justice’s first ever-Domestic Violence Working Group, these charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made domestic violence firearms-related investigations a priority.
    [Read More…]
  • Iraq Contract Costs: DOD Consideration of Defense Contract Audit Agency’s Findings
    In U.S GAO News
    The government has hired private contractors to provide billions of dollars worth of goods and services to support U.S. efforts in Iraq. Faced with the uncertainty as to the full extent of rebuilding Iraq, the government authorized contractors to begin work before key terms and conditions were defined. This approach allows the government to initiate needed work quickly, but can result in additional costs and risks being imposed on the government. Helping to oversee their work is the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), which examined many Iraq contracts and identified costs they consider to be questioned or unsupported. The Conference Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 directed GAO to report on audit findings regarding contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As agreed with the congressional defense committees, GAO focused on Iraq contract audit findings and determined (1) the costs identified by DCAA as questioned or unsupported; and (2) what actions DOD has taken to address DCAA audit findings, including the extent funds were withheld from contractors. To identify DOD actions in response to the audit findings, GAO selected 18 audit reports representing about 50 percent of DCAA's questioned and unsupported costs on Iraq contracts. GAO requested comments from DOD on a draft of this report, but none were provided.Defense Contract Audit Agency audit reports issued between February 2003 and February 2006 identified $2.1 billion in questioned costs and $1.4 billion in unsupported costs on Iraq contracts. DCAA defines questioned costs as costs that are unacceptable for negotiating reasonable contract prices, and unsupported costs as costs for which the contractor has not provided sufficient documentation. This information is provided to DOD for its negotiations with contractors. Based on information provided by DCAA, DOD contracting officials have taken actions to address $1.4 billion in questioned costs. As a result, DOD contracting officials negotiated contract cost reductions of $386 million according to DCAA. Based on the information provided by DCAA, as of July 2006, the remaining $700 million in questioned costs is still in process. Because unsupported costs indicate a lack of contractor information that is needed to assess costs, DCAA cannot and does not render an opinion on those costs. Therefore, DCAA does not track the resolution of unsupported costs. For the 18 audit reports selected for this review, GAO found that DOD contracting officials took a variety of actions to address DCAA's audit findings, including not allowing some contractor costs. In the contract documentation GAO reviewed, DOD contracting officials generally considered DCAA's questioned and unsupported cost findings when negotiating with the contractor. GAO found DOD contracting officials were more likely to use DCAA's advice when negotiations were timely and occurred before contractors had incurred substantial costs. For example, in three audit reports related to a logistics support task order negotiated prior to the onset of work, DCAA questioned $204 million. According to DCAA's calculations, $120 million of these questioned costs was removed from the contractor's proposal as a result of its audit findings. In contrast, DOD officials were less likely to remove questioned costs from a contract proposal when the contractor had already incurred these costs. For example, in five audit reports comprising about $600 million of questioned costs reviewed, GAO found that the DOD contracting officials determined that the contractor should be paid for all but $38 million of the questioned costs, but reduced the base used to calculate the contractor's fee by $205 million. By reducing the base, the DOD contracting official reduced the contractor's fee by approximately $6 million. In addition to identifying questioned and unsupported costs, DCAA has the option of withholding funds from the contractor and chose to withhold a total of $236 million for eight cases included in this review.
    [Read More…]
  • Engineering Firm And Its Former Executive Indicted On Antitrust And Fraud Charges
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina returned an indictment charging Contech Engineered Solutions LLC and Brent Brewbaker, a former executive at the company, for participating in long-standing conspiracies to rig bids and defraud the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the Department of Justice announced.
    [Read More…]
  • Commercial Flooring Executive Indicted on Money Laundering Charge as Part of a Long-Running Bid Rigging Investigation
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois returned a one-count indictment charging Michael Zmijewski for his role in a money laundering conspiracy involving kickbacks. Zmijewski is a former President of Mr. David’s Flooring International LLC (Mr. David’s), a Chicago-based commercial flooring contractor. Zmijewski is the sixth individual, along with three companies, that have been charged as result of the ongoing federal antitrust investigation.
    [Read More…]
  • Three Individuals Charged with $3.5 Million Scheme to Collect Contributions for Fraudulent Political Action Committees
    In Crime News
    Two California men and one Texas man have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Austin, Texas, for their alleged involvement a scheme to operate two fraudulent political action committees (PACs) during the 2016 federal election cycle. The indictment was unsealed yesterday after being returned on Nov. 2.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Court Permanently Bars Southern Florida Tax Preparer from Preparing Returns
    In Crime News
    A federal court in the Southern District of Florida has permanently enjoined a West Palm Beach tax return preparer and her business from preparing federal income tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. According to the court’s order, it issued the injunction in response to violations of a prior order in the case that had allowed the preparer and her business to prepare returns subject to certain restrictions. In April 2017, the United States filed a complaint against Lena D. Cotton and Professional Accounting LDC, LLC, that alleged the defendants prepared returns with improper education credits, manipulated filing statuses, and improper vehicle deductions, among other issues. In November 2017, the court permanently enjoined both defendants from this and other specific conduct and required defendants to engage a “neutral monitor” to “determin[e] and/or secur[e] compliance” with injunction.
    [Read More…]
  • Belgian Security Services Firm Agrees to Plead Guilty to Criminal Antitrust Conspiracy Affecting Department of Defense Procurement
    In Crime News
    G4S Secure Solutions NV (G4S), a Belgian security firm, has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to rig bids, allocate customers, and fix prices for defense-related security services, including a multimillion-dollar contract issued in 2020 to provide security services to the U.S. Department of Defense for military bases and installations in Belgium. This is the first international resolution obtained by the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF).
    [Read More…]
  • Former Elected County Coroner Indicted for Illegal Distribution of Controlled Substances
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky returned an indictment today charging a former elected county coroner with illegally distributing controlled substances such as oxycodone and OxyContin. 
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Awards Nearly $104 Million to Help Crime Victims in Indian Country
    In Crime News
    The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has awarded nearly $104 million to serve victims in tribal communities, of which nearly $101 million was awarded through the Crime Victims Fund Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside.
    [Read More…]
  • [Protest of Air Force Solicitation for Postal Service Center and Base Information Transfer Center Operations]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested an Air Force solicitation for postal service center and base information transfer center operations, contending that some of the solicitation requirements were not consistent with commercial practice and the acquisition should not have been procured under Federal Acquisition Regulation part 12 procedures. GAO held that the protester was not sufficiently interested to protest, since it was a large business under the applicable size standard. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed.
    [Read More…]
  • North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to North [Read More…]
  • West Texas Gas Companies Agree to Pay $3 Million Civil Penalty in Federal Settlement Requiring $5 Million in Safety Improvements and Clean Air Act Compliance at Eight Natural Gas Processing Plants
    In Crime News
    Five subsidiaries of West Texas Gas Inc. will spend up to $5 million on compliance measures in a settlement that resolves allegations in the United States’ complaint, lodged today, that they violated federal Clean Air Act chemical accident prevention requirements at several of their natural gas processing plants. The companies will pay more than $3 million in civil penalties to resolve claims stemming from fatal chemical accidents and accident prevention program violations.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken to Deliver Remarks to the Media in the Press Briefing Room
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Federal Court Finds Florida Tax Preparers in Contempt for Violating Court’s Preliminary Injunction
    In Crime News
    On Thursday, a federal court in the Southern District of Florida held two individuals, as well as the company they allegedly co-own, in contempt for violating a preliminary injunction that restricted their tax preparation activities. The court’s order notes defendants “admit that sufficient evidence exists to hold them in contempt of court for violating the preliminary injunction.”
    [Read More…]
  • Leader of Transnational Money-Laundering Network Pleads Guilty to Aiding Drug-Trafficking Organizations, While Co-Conspirator is Sentenced
    In Crime News
    A Chinese national and naturalized U.S. citizen pleaded guilty yesterday to his involvement in a conspiracy to launder at least $30 million in drug proceeds on behalf of foreign drug-trafficking organizations.
    [Read More…]
  • Florida Escort Pleads Guilty to Underreporting Income
    In Crime News
    A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, escort pleaded guilty today to filing a false corporate tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan.
    [Read More…]
  • Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at Virtual MOU Signing Ceremony with Korean Prosecution Service
    In Crime News
    It is with great pleasure that I sign this Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Department of Justice alongside my good friend, Prosecutor General Yoon. Enhancing the ties between our agencies has been an important priority for me during my tenure as Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. While only a few years ago we knew comparatively little about one another, our relationship has quickly blossomed into a strong and enduring friendship. I am extremely pleased that we have succeeded in developing important and lasting ties between our agencies, as underscored by our signing of this Memorandum of Understanding today.
    [Read More…]
  • Houthi Attacks Impacting Civilians
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Three charged in conspiracy to purchase $500,000 in weapons for cartel
    In Justice News
    Three men are now facing [Read More…]
  • District Court Enters Permanent Injunction Shutting Down Fraudulent Psychic Mail Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered a permanent injunction against three individuals and two companies who had been operating an international mail fraud scheme.
    [Read More…]

Crime

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