January 20, 2022

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Latvia Travel Advisory

4 min read

Reconsider travel to Latvia due to COVID-19.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Latvia due to COVID-19.

Improved conditions have been reported within Latvia. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Latvia.

Read the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Latvia:

Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.

News Network

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  • Grants Management: Agencies Provided Many Types of Technical Assistance and Applied Recipients’ Feedback
    In U.S GAO News
    Technical assistance refers to programs, activities, and services provided by federal agencies to strengthen the capacity of grant recipients and to improve their performance of grant functions. Technical assistance can improve the performance or management of grant program recipients. Technical assistance includes the improvement of grant outcomes, grant management, grantee compliance, project monitoring and evaluation, and interactions with stakeholders. The technical assistance provided by the selected agencies—the Department of Education (Education), the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA)—is designed to align with the requirements of each agency's grant programs and the individual grantee's needs. The types of technical assistance provided by agencies varied and included a range of delivery methods shown below. Types of Technical Assistance Provided by Selected Agencies Education tailors its approach to provide technical assistance to grantees based on recipients' needs and their efforts to obtain technical assistance. According to ACF, some grant programs have extensive, dedicated technical assistance that is grant specific, while other grant programs share technical assistance resources provided by multiple technical assistance centers. ACF's technical assistance can be based on program office oversight of the grantees that includes financial and internal control reviews and site visits. For ETA, state and local grantees administer ETA-funded programs throughout the country and technical assistance plays a role in ensuring these programs' successful implementation. According to ETA officials, technical assistance activities are based on grant program objectives. The 10 grant programs GAO reviewed evaluated technical assistance, collected feedback from recipients of the technical assistance, and incorporated feedback into technical assistance. For example, a School Safety National Activities evaluation of one of its national centers included targets for multiple performance measures and the actual performance for each measure. These measures included the percentage of milestones achieved and the percentage of technical assistance and dissemination products and services deemed to be high quality by an independent review panel. The overall goal of technical assistance is to enhance the delivery of agency programs and help ensure grantee compliance. GAO was asked to review issues related to technical assistance for grants at Education, ACF, and ETA. This report (1) describes how Education, ACF, and ETA provide technical assistance to grantees; and (2) examines to what extent these agencies evaluate the technical assistance. For this review, GAO selected 10 grant programs from the three agencies based on fiscal year 2018 funding information and the purpose of the grant. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed agency officials about the technical assistance provided, the provider and recipient of technical assistance, and the amount obligated in fiscal year 2018 for the 10 grant programs reviewed. GAO also reviewed documents and interviewed agencies about the extent to which they evaluated technical assistance, whether they gathered feedback from the recipients of technical assistance, and whether feedback was included in the evaluations for the 10 grant programs reviewed. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or SagerM@gao.gov.
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    A Maryland man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise by murdering a suspected rival gang member and attempting to murder two other victims, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities. 
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  • Federal Spending Transparency: Opportunities Exist to Further Improve the Information Available on USAspending.gov
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) requires federal agencies to submit spending data for presentation on USAspending.gov. This public-facing website promotes federal spending transparency. Information displayed on USAspending.gov is sourced from agency financial systems and external government-wide reporting systems. GAO found that Treasury took additional steps to disclose known data limitations on USAspending.gov. GAO also identified some opportunities to further enhance the quality of the data displayed on the website and the business application controls that process the data. Timeliness. Most agencies submitted their data files by the deadlines established by Treasury. For the period ending March 31, 2021, 83 of 101 agencies submitted their data files on time. Completeness. Of the 101 agencies that submitted data for the period ending March 31, 2021, 19 did not include data in the required file that links budget and award information needed to effectively track federal spending. Accuracy. Data displayed on selected USAspending.gov web pages were largely consistent with agency-certified data, the USAspending.gov database, data displayed on other USAspending.gov web pages and data available for download. However, Treasury should help ensure that users of the data are able to distinguish whether information on award description describes the purpose of the base award or the purpose of a transaction or modification. Business process controls. Treasury could strengthen its business process controls to prevent or detect incomplete or inaccurate data displayed on USAspending.gov. For example, Treasury did not have a process to periodically inform agencies of unlinked data to help them reconcile and resolve data linkage differences, and the unique award key did not always result in a complete and accurate display of financial assistance award information. Implementation and use of data standards. Some data elements displayed on USAspending.gov were inconsistent with the established data standards. For example, agencies were required to report program activity information included in the program and financing schedules of the annual budget of the federal government. However, for the reporting period ending March 31, 2021, GAO found that hundreds of billions of dollars in obligations were reported with a program activity of “Unknown/Other.” Disclosure of known data limitations. Treasury disclosed known data limitations by adding an Agency Submission Statistics web page in response to user feedback requesting greater transparency into the completeness of agency data available on the website. However, Treasury does not disclose the effects of changes to reporting standards over time. In addition, disclosures on the linkage of financial and award information are unclear. Data governance. Agencies have made progress completing the data governance milestones outlined in the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently issued the 2021 Action Plan and is considering future efforts to monitor agency progress. USAspending.gov integrates data from many sources, including data that agencies submit and certify, and data from government-wide reporting systems (see figure). Agencies are required to submit seven data files, sourced from agency financial management systems and government-wide reporting systems, either monthly or quarterly. As seen below, agencies submit these files to Treasury's DATA Act Broker (broker)—the system that collects and validates agency data—and attest to or certify the accuracy of the seven data files. The broker also obtains award and subaward data and information from government-wide reporting systems each evening to update USAspending.gov. This nightly update process also integrates new agency-certified data files after each monthly or quarterly submission due date. Additional data from other external sources is periodically updated in the broker and reflected on USAspending.gov. Process Overview and Sources of Data Displayed on USAspending.gov Why GAO Did This Study The DATA Act requires disclosure of federal agency expenditures and linking of agency spending information to federal program activities so that both policymakers and the public can more effectively track federal spending. The act also requires OMB and Treasury to establish data standards to provide consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data. The DATA Act contains a provision for GAO to report on the quality of the data. This is the third in a series of three reports on data quality. This report examines (1) the timeliness, completeness, and accuracy of the data displayed on USAspending.gov; (2) business process controls over the data; (3) the implementation and use of data standards; (4) the disclosure of known data quality limitations; and (5) the status of agency efforts to develop a data governance structure over DATA Act reporting. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed data from USAspending.gov, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed agency officials.
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  • Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: Commerce Should Improve Its Exclusion Request Process and Economic Impact Reviews
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Commerce (Commerce) has a four-phase process to review companies' requests to be excluded from having to pay Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. Commerce ensures an exclusion request is complete, accepts public input, evaluates materials submitted, and issues a final decision. Between March 2018 and November 2019, Commerce received over 106,000 requests; it rejected over 19,000 of them prior to decision due to incorrect or incomplete information. Although rejections may delay relief for requesters and can increase work for Commerce, the agency has not identified, analyzed, or taken steps to fully address the causes of these submission errors. In deciding exclusion requests, Commerce examines objections from steel and aluminum producers to find whether the requested products are reasonably available domestically in a sufficient amount. Commerce may also decide exclusion requests based on national security issues, but has not done so. While Commerce approved two-thirds of exclusion requests, it most often denied requests that had technical errors or where a domestic producer had objected. Commerce did not decide about three quarters of requests within its established timeliness guidelines, as shown in the figure, taking more than a year to decide 841 requests. Commerce took steps to improve timeliness, such as streamlining the review process for some requests and creating a new submission website, but continues not to meet guidelines and had a backlog of 28,000 requests as of November 2019. Until Commerce takes additional steps, companies will continue to encounter delays in obtaining relief. Most Steel and Aluminum Exclusion Decisions Did Not Meet the Department of Commerce's Established Timeliness Guidelines from March 2018 to November 2019 Commerce has not documented the results from any reviews of the tariffs' impacts or assigned responsibility for conducting regular reviews. GAO found evidence of changes in U.S. steel and aluminum imports and markets. For example, imports covered by the tariffs declined after an initial surge and prices dropped after significant increases in earlier years. Evaluating whether the tariffs have achieved the intended goals and how they affect downstream sectors requires more in-depth economic analysis. Without assigning responsibility for conducting regular reviews and documenting the results, Commerce may be unable to consistently assess if adjustments to the tariffs are needed. Citing national security concerns over excess global supply of steel and aluminum, in March 2018 the President placed tariffs on the import of some products using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. At the President's direction, Commerce established a process to provide relief, or exclusion, from the tariffs. GAO was asked to review Commerce's Section 232 tariff exclusion process. This report assesses (1) the process Commerce uses to decide exclusion requests and to what degree it has accepted submitted requests; (2) what criteria and factors affected Commerce's decisions; (3) how often Commerce met established guidelines for the timely resolution of requests; and (4) the extent to which Commerce reviewed the impacts of the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as directed. GAO analyzed Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security and International Trade Administration records from March 2018 to November 2019, as well as data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security, and spoke with agency officials. GAO recommends that Commerce (1) identify, analyze, and respond to factors in the process that may cause submission errors; (2) take steps to improve timeliness of exclusion request decisions and address the backlog; and (3) assign responsibility for reviewing the tariffs' impact and document the results. Commerce concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov .
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  • Justice Department Approves Remission of Over $32 Million in Forfeited Funds to Victims in the FIFA Corruption Case
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it will begin the process of remitting forfeited funds to FIFA, the world organizing body of soccer; CONCACAF, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in North and Central America, among other regions; CONMEBOL, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in South America; and various constituent national soccer federations (collectively, the “Victims”). The department granted a joint petition for remission filed by the Victims, recognizing losses and granting remission up to a total of more than $201 million, of which $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution. In total, well over the amount granted has been seized and has been or is expected to be forfeited to the United States in the Eastern District of New York as part of the government’s long-running investigation and prosecution of corruption in international soccer. 
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  • Statement of Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers on the Public Release of the Department’s Findings with Respect to the 29 FISA Applications that Were the Subject of the March 2020 OIG Preliminary Report
    In Crime News
    “The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020.  We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court.   These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities.  We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority.  We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court.  The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”      
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  • Five Individuals Charged with Money Laundering in Connection with Alleged Venezuela Bribery Scheme
    In Crime News
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  • Native American Youth: Agencies Incorporated Almost All Leading Practices When Assessing Grant Programs That Could Prevent or Address Delinquency [Reissued with revisions on Aug. 27, 2020.]
    In U.S GAO News
    The Departments of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), the Interior (Interior), and Education (Education) administered at least 38 grant programs from fiscal years 2015 through 2018 that could have helped prevent or address delinquency among Native American youth. These agencies made about $1.9 billion in awards to grantees through these programs during this period. These agencies incorporated almost all of the leading practices GAO identified for performance measurement or program evaluation when assessing the performance of selected grant programs. For example, HHS's Administration for Children and Families (ACF) incorporated 13 of the 14 leading practices for performance measurement but did not fully assess grantee data reliability for one of its programs. By developing a process to assess the reliability of grantee data contained in the annual performance reports that tribal recipients submit, ACF could obtain further assurance that it has an accurate representation of grantee performance. GAO also found that Interior's Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) did not conduct formal data reliability checks on performance data that grantees report and did not always collect performance reports from grantees in a timely manner for one of its programs. By developing a process to assess the reliability of a sample of grantee performance data and taking steps to alert grantees when they are late in submitting performance reports, BIE could better ensure that grantees are complying with the terms and conditions of the grant program and better understand how the program and its grantees are performing. Officials in all 12 interviews with tribes or tribal consortia GAO interviewed cited risk factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency in their communities. Number of Interviews in Which Tribal Officials Cited Risk Factors Contributing to Juvenile Delinquency Note: The figure includes the most common risk factors tribal officials cited for juvenile delinquency. While tribal officials cited restrictions placed on federal grant funding, difficulty communicating with program staff, and challenges hiring and retaining staff as barriers to implementing federal programs, they also identified promising practices, such as executing culturally relevant programs, for preventing or addressing juvenile delinquency. Federal and other studies have noted that exposure to violence and substance abuse make Native American youth susceptible to becoming involved with the justice system. GAO was asked to examine federal and tribal efforts to address juvenile delinquency and the barriers tribes face in doing so. This report examines (1) federal financial assistance targeting tribes that could prevent or address juvenile delinquency; (2) the extent to which federal agencies assess the performance of selected grant programs and incorporate leading practices; and (3) the juvenile delinquency challenges tribes report facing. GAO identified relevant grant programs during fiscal years 2015 through 2018—the most recent data available when GAO began the review. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed agency officials to determine how they assessed grant program performance and conducted interviews with 10 tribes and two tribal consortia to discuss challenges with delinquency. GAO is making three recommendations, including that relevant HHS and Interior offices develop a process to assess the reliability of tribal grantee performance information and that an Interior office take steps to alert grantees that are late in submitting progress reports. Interior concurred with the two recommendations. HHS disagreed with GAO's recommendation. GAO clarified the recommendation to HHS and continues to believe it is warranted. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin, (202) 512-8777, or GoodwinG@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Chicago Tax Preparer
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  • Atlanta Tax Professionals Plead Guilty to Promoting Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme Involving More Than $1.2 Billion in Fraudulent Charitable Deductions
    In Crime News
    Stein Agee of Canton, Georgia, and Corey Agee of Atlanta, Georgia, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf and pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging abusive tax scheme to defraud the IRS, announced United States Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Commissioner Charles Rettig of the IRS.
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  • Defense Budget: Fiscal Year 2018 Obligations of Operation and Maintenance Funding for Overseas Contingency Operations
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In fiscal year 2018, Congress authorized $48.6 billion and appropriated $50.7 billion for operation and maintenance (O&M) overseas contingency operations (OCO), and the Department of Defense (DOD) reported obligating $46.5 billion. DOD reported obligating these funds for war-related activities, including security forces training missions, in-theater base support operations (dining facilities, laundry, security, and housing), ship operations, flying hours, equipment maintenance and repair, and transportation. The amounts reported as obligated in some sub-activity groups exceed the congressionally directed amounts for those same groups as a result of transfers and reprogrammings. Why GAO Did This Study According to DOD, since September 2001, Congress has appropriated approximately $1.8 trillion to DOD for OCO, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to report on how funds authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2018 for OCO were obligated. In fiscal year 2018, O&M OCO amounts comprised approximately 76 percent of DOD's OCO appropriations total of $66.8 billion. This report describes how amounts authorized and appropriated for O&M OCO activities were obligated by DOD for fiscal year 2018. To determine how DOD obligated the amounts authorized and appropriated for O&M OCO activities in fiscal year 2018, GAO first compared authorized and appropriated O&M OCO amounts by sub-activity group. GAO then analyzed obligation data provided by DOD related to the same sub-activity groups. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • [Protest of Air Force Contract Award for Countermeasures Dispenser System]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested an Air Force contract award for Lots IV through VII of the AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser System (CMDS), contending that the evaluation of proposals was unreasonable because it was based on a flawed quantity estimate. GAO held that the Air Force decision not to amend the solicitation resulted in an unreasonable and a flawed selection decision, since the change in quantity was material. Accordingly, the protest was sustained, and GAO recommended that the Air Force: (1) reopen the competition and issue a solicitation amendment to reflect its current best estimate of the quantity; (2) if, after reevaluation of bids, another bid represents the best value to the government, terminate the contract award and make a new award; and (3) reimburse the protester for its bid protest costs.
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