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New Caledonia has resumed most transportation options, (including airport operations and re-opening of borders) and business operations (including day cares and schools). Other improved conditions have been reported within New Caledonia. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in New Caledonia.
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Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.
- U.S. Concern for Integrity of Guatemalan Judicial SystemBy Sam NewsJanuary 16, 2022Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- CEO Sentenced for $150 Million Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsFebruary 3, 2021More from: February 3, [Read More…]
- FEDERAL COURT RESTRAINS TAMPA PHARMACY AND TWO INDIVIDUALS FROM DISPENSING OPIOIDS OR OTHER CONTROLLED SUBSTANCESBy Sam NewsJanuary 29, 2021A federal court in Florida issued a temporary restraining order enjoining a Tampa pharmacy and two of its employees from dispensing opioids and other controlled substances, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Warfighter Support: Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before FieldingBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021The Army has issued soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan personal body armor, comprising an outer protective vest and ceramic plate inserts. GAO observed Preliminary Design Model testing of new plate designs, which resulted in the Army's awarding contracts in September 2008 valued at a total of over $8 billion to vendors of the designs that passed that testing. Between November and December 2008, the Army conducted further testing, called First Article Testing, on these designs. GAO is reporting on the degree to which the Army followed its established testing protocols during these two tests. GAO did not provide an expert ballistics evaluation of the results of testing. GAO, using a structured, GAO-developed data collection instrument, observed both tests at the Army's Aberdeen Test Center, analyzed data, and interviewed agency and industry officials to evaluate observed deviations from testing protocols. However, independent ballistics testing expertise is needed to determine the full effect of these deviations.During Preliminary Design Model testing the Army took significant steps to run a controlled test and maintain consistency throughout the process, but the Army did not always follow established testing protocols and, as a result, did not achieve its intended test objective of determining as a basis for awarding contracts which designs met performance requirements. In the most consequential of the Army's deviations from testing protocols, the Army testers incorrectly measured the amount of force absorbed by the plate designs by measuring back-face deformation in the clay backing at the point of aim rather than at the deepest point of depression. Army testers recognized the error after completing about a third of the test and then changed the test plan to call for measuring at the point of aim and likewise issued a modification to the contract solicitation. At least two of the eight designs that passed Preliminary Design Model testing and were awarded contracts would have failed if measurements had been made to the deepest point of depression. The deviations from the testing protocols were the result of Aberdeen Test Center's incorrectly interpreting the testing protocols. In all these cases of deviations from the testing protocols, the Aberdeen Test Center's implemented procedures were not reviewed or approved by the Army and Department of Defense officials responsible for approving the testing protocols. After concerns were raised regarding the Preliminary Design Model testing, the decision was made not to field any of the plate designs awarded contracts until after First Article Testing was conducted. During First Article Testing, the Army addressed some of the problems identified during Preliminary Design Model testing, but GAO observed instances in which Army testers did not follow the established testing protocols and did not maintain internal controls over the integrity and reliability of data, raising questions as to whether the Army met its First Article Test objective of determining whether each of the contracted designs met performance requirements. The following are examples of deviations from testing protocols and other issues that GAO observed: (1) The clay backing placed behind the plates during ballistics testing was not always calibrated in accordance with testing protocols and was exposed to rain on one day, potentially impacting test results. (2) Testers improperly rounded down back-face deformation measurements, which is not authorized in the established testing protocols and which resulted in two designs passing First Article Testing that otherwise would have failed. Army officials said rounding is a common practice; however, one private test facility that rounds told GAO that they round up, not down. (3) Testers used a new instrument to measure back-face deformation without adequately certifying that the instrument could function correctly and in conformance with established testing protocols. The impact of this issue on test results is uncertain, but it could call into question the reliability and accuracy of the measurements. (4) Testers deviated from the established testing protocols in one instance by improperly scoring a complete penetration as a partial penetration. As a result, one design passed First Article Testing that would have otherwise failed. With respect to internal control issues, the Army did not consistently maintain adequate internal controls to ensure the integrity and reliability of test data. In one example, during ballistic testing, data were lost, and testing had to be repeated because an official accidentally pressed the delete button and software controls were not in place to protect the integrity of test data. Army officials acknowledged that before GAO's review they were unaware of the specific internal control problems we identified.[Read More…]
- Florida Tax Preparer Charged in Connection with $7 Million Loan Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2021A Florida tax preparer was charged in an indictment filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania yesterday with scheming to fraudulently obtain more than $7 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and pre-pandemic Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, and to launder the proceeds of the illegal scheme.[Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentBy Sam NewsJuly 6, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 17 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since then, HUD has implemented 5 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to help HUD strengthen the monitoring of disaster recovery block grant funds and improving information technology management. In June 2021, GAO identified 1 additional priority recommendation for HUD, bringing the total number to 13. This recommendation involved improving the Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process. The 13 recommendations fall into the following areas: Improve Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process Address Ginnie Mae's risk management and staffing-related challenges Strengthen processes to address lead paint hazards Enhance oversight of Moving to Work Improve cybersecurity risk management and workforce planning practices Improve information technology management HUD's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- 20th Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic CharterBy Sam NewsNovember 3, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Public Schedule – January 19, 2022By Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2022Office of the [Read More…]
- Georgia Man Sentenced to Prison for Running Ponzi SchemeBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020A Georgia man has been sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for running a Ponzi scheme that ensnared over a hundred victims, and induced college students and others to part with money for his own personal benefit.[Read More…]
- Stabilization and Reconstruction: Actions Are Needed to Develop a Planning and Coordination Framework and Establish the Civilian Reserve CorpsBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021In 2004, the Department of State created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to coordinate U.S. planning and implementation of stabilization and reconstruction operations. In December 2005, President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD-44), charging State with improving coordination, planning, and implementation of such operations and ensuring that the United States can respond quickly and effectively to overseas crises. GAO was asked to report on State's efforts to improve (1) interagency planning and coordination for stabilization and reconstruction operations, and (2) deployment of civilians to these operations. To address these objectives, we conducted interviews with officials and reviewed documents from U.S. agencies and government and private research centers.The office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is developing a framework for planning and coordinating U.S. reconstruction and stabilization operations. The National Security Council (NSC) has adopted two of three primary elements of the framework--the Interagency Management System and procedures for initiating the framework's use. However, the third element--a guide for planning stabilization and reconstruction operations--is still in progress. We cannot determine how effective the framework will be because it has not been fully applied to any stabilization and reconstruction operation. In addition, guidance on agencies' roles and responsibilities is unclear and inconsistent, and the lack of an agreed-upon definition for stabilization and reconstruction operations poses an obstacle to interagency collaboration. Moreover, some interagency partners stated that senior officials have shown limited support for the framework and S/CRS. Some partners described the new planning process, as presented in early versions of the planning guide, as cumbersome and too time consuming for the results it has produced. S/CRS has taken steps to strengthen the framework by addressing some interagency concerns and providing training to interagency partners. However, differences in the planning capacities and procedures of civilian agencies and the military pose obstacles to effective coordination. State has begun developing three civilian corps that can deploy rapidly to international crises, but key details for establishing and maintaining these units remain unresolved. First, State created the Active Response Corps (ARC) and the Standby Response Corps (SRC) comprised of U.S. government employees to act as first responders to international crises and has worked with several agencies to create similar units. However, these efforts are limited due to State's difficulty in achieving planned staffing levels for ARC, a lack of training available to SRC volunteers, other agencies' inability to secure resources for operations unrelated to their core domestic missions, and the possibility that deploying employees to such operations can leave units without sufficient staff. Second, in 2004, State began developing the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC). CRC would be comprised of U.S. civilians who have skills and experiences useful for stabilization and reconstruction operations, such as police officers, civil engineers, public administrators, and judges that are not readily available within the U.S. government. If deployed, volunteers would become federal workers. S/CRS developed a plan to recruit the first 500 volunteers, and NSC has approved a plan to increase the roster to 2,000 volunteers in 2009. In May 2007, State received the authority to reallocate up to $50 million to support and maintain CRC, but it does not yet have the authority to obligate these funds. In addition, issues related to volunteers' compensation and benefits that could affect CRC recruitment and management would require congressional action. Furthermore, State has not clearly defined the types of missions for which CRC would be deployed. State has estimated the costs to establish and sustain CRC at home, but these costs do not include costs for deploying and sustaining volunteers overseas.[Read More…]
- Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC And Co-Defendants Agree To Pay Over $15.3 Million To Resolve Allegations They Fraudulently Obtained Government-Insured Loan And Misused Loan FundsBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC (LRMC) agreed to pay $13,580,822.79, and Surgical Development Partners LLC, Surgical Development Partners of Austin Enterprises LLC, G. Edward Alexander, Frank Sossi, and John Prater collectively agreed to pay $1.8 million, to resolve allegations they violated the False Claims Act and other statutes in connection with the development of Lakeway Regional Medical Center, a hospital in Lakeway, Texas. LRMC was formed to develop and operate the hospital. The other settling parties assisted in the development of the hospital and the management and operations of LRMC.[Read More…]
- United States Files Civil Forfeiture Complaint for Proceeds of Alleged Fraud and Theft from PrivatBank in UkraineBy Sam NewsJanuary 20, 2022The United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that more than $6 million in proceeds from the sale of commercial real estate in Dallas, Texas, which property was maintained and improved using the proceeds of embezzlement and fraud from PrivatBank in Ukraine, are subject to forfeiture based on violations of federal money laundering statutes.[Read More…]
- United States Files False Claims Act Complaint Against Drug Maker Teva Pharmaceuticals Alleging Illegal KickbacksBy Sam NewsAugust 18, 2020The United States has filed a False Claims Act complaint against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Teva Neuroscience Inc. (Teva), alleging that they illegally paid the Medicare co-pays for their multiple sclerosis (MS) product, Copaxone, through purportedly independent foundations that the companies used as conduits in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Riverside, California Man Who Admitted Planning Mass Casualty Attacks and Purchasing Firearms Later Used in 2015 Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino Ordered to Serve 20-Year Federal Prison SentenceBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020A Riverside man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks in the Inland Empire and for providing assault rifles later used in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.[Read More…]
- المساعدات المُقَدّمة للضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة: في حالة إستئناف التمويل، فإن زيادة الرقابة على إمتثال الجهة الفرعية الحاصلة على المنح لسياسات وإجراءات مكافحة الارهاب الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية قد يُقلل من المخاطرBy Sam NewsApril 14, 2021This is the Arabic language highlights associated with GAO-21-332, which issued on Monday, March 29. لماذا أجرى مكتب مساءلة الحكومة ھذه الدراسة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية منذ عام 1993 أكثر من 6.3 مليار دولار على شكل مساعدات ثنائية للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ووزارة الخارجية الأمريكية، تم إيقاف تمويل صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي (ESF) منذ يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مجموعة من الإجراءات السياساتية والقانونية. إن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية مسؤولة بشكل رئيسي عن إدارة المساعدات المقدمة من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة وضمان الامتثال لسياساته وإجراءاته الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. تتضمن قوانين التخصيص للسنوات المالية 2015-2019 أحكاماً لمكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمراجعة استخدامات أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي الخاصة ببرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. كما طُلِبَ من مكتب مساءلة الحكومة مُراجعة كيف يؤثر وقف هذه المساعدات على موارد التوظيف في الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية. يدرس هذا التقرير (1) حالة مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي المقدمة من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية للبرنامج في السنوات المالية 2015-2019، وذلك اعتباراً من 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020؛ (2) الخطوات التي اتخذتها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تجاه المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف عندما توقفت مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي؛ (3) مدى امتثال الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لسياساتها وإجراءاتها الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب للسنوات المالية 2015-2019. وقد راجع مكتب مساءلة الحكومة القوانين وسياسات الوكالة وإجراءاتها ووثائقها وبياناتها وقام بتقييم عيّنة قابلة للتعميم من 245 من الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المنح للتأكد من الامتثال لسياسات واجراءات الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. النتائج التي توصل إليها مكتب مساءلة الحكومة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية مساعدات للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة لتعزيز السلام في الشرق الأوسط منذ عام 1993، جزئيا من خلال البرامج التي تُديرها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ويمولها صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي. وقد توقف هذا التمويل منذ 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وبحلول 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020، كانت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية قد انفقت معظم أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي التي تم تخصيصها لبرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة في السنوات المالية 2015-2019. على وجه التحديد، انفقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 487.3 مليون دولار من أصل 540.4 مليون دولار من مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للبرنامج في السنتين الماليتين 2015 و2016. وأعادت إدارة الرئيس ترامب برمجة الـ 230.1 مليون دولار التي كانت مخصصة للسنة المالية 2017 لبرامج أخرى ولم تخصص مبالغ للسنتين الماليتين 2018 و2019. وأعلنت السلطة الفلسطينية في شهر ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2018 بأنها لن تقبل المساعدة بعد 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مخاوف لديها بشأن قانون توضيح مكافحة الإرهاب (Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act) لعام 2018. ووفقاً لمسؤولين من وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية والوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية فإن القانون يتضمن أحكاماً يمكن أن تجعل الجهات المتلقية للمساعدات من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي خاضعة لدعاوى قضائية أمريكية. وفي شهر يناير/ كانون الثاني 2021، أعلنت إدارة الرئيس بايدن نيتها إستئناف تقديم المساعدات الأمريكية للبرامج في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. اتخذت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عدة خطوات بشأن المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة بعد توقف تقديم المساعدة للبرنامج اعتبارا من 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وقد أوقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 27 مشروعاً جارياً. كما توقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عن إعادة شغل الوظائف المصرح بها في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة، واقترحت تخفيضا في قوة العمل، ووضعت حوالي 50 موظفا في مَهام مؤقتة لأنشطة أخرى. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية، فإنه اعتبارا من شهر مايو/ أيار 2019، طلبت لجان الكونجرس من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تعليق تخفيض الوظائف المُخطط له انتظاراً لاستمرار المداولات. وفي حين أن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لم تنهِ عمل موظفيها، إلا أن عدد موظفي البعثة انخفض بنسبة 39 بالمئة من ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2017 وحتى سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020 بسبب مُغادرة الموظفين للبعثة وعمليات النقل والاستقالات. تُحدد سياسات وإجراءات مكافحة الإرهاب للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية والخاصة بالضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة ثلاثة متطلبات لمُتلقي التمويل من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي: الفحص بالنسبة للعديد من الجهات غير الأمريكية التي تتلقى المساعدات، وشهادات مكافحة الإرهاب لمُتلقي المِنَح أو الاتفاقيات التعاونية، وأحكام إلزامية تهدف لمنع الدعم المالي للإرهاب في جميع مِنَح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية والفرعية. توصل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة إلى أنه بالنسبة للسنوات المالية 2015-2019، امتثلت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية بشكل كامل لجميع المتطلبات الثلاثة عند منح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية، غير أنها لم تتأكد بشكل متسق من إمتثال الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المساعدات. بالإضافة لذلك، أظهر تحليل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لعيّنة المنح الفرعية القابلة للتعميم ومراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية وجود فجوات في الامتثال لمتطلبات الفحص والأحكام الإلزامية على مستوى المنح الفرعية. فعلى سبيل المثال، توصل التحليل الذي أجراه مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمُراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية إلى أن 13 من أصل 86 تقريراً كان فيها حالة أو أكثر من عدم قيام الجهة الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح بتضمين الأحكام الإلزامية، والتي تُغطي 420 من المنح الفرعية. قدمت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تدريباً للجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح سابقاً على تقديم المساعدة حول متطلبات مكافحة الإرهاب بالنسبة للجهات التي تحصل على المنح الفرعية، غير أنها لم تتحقق من أن الجهات الحاصلة على المنح لديها إجراءات للامتثال لهذه المتطلبات. وبالإضافة لذلك، أجرت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية مراجعات للامتثال لاحقة على تقديم المنح الفرعية تمت بعد انتهاء المنحة الفرعية في بعض الأحيان، حيث كان الأوان قد فات لاتخاذ اجراءات تصحيحية. و في حالة استئناف تمويل صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي، فإن التحقق من أن الجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح لديها هذه الاجراءات، وإجراء مراجعات للامتثال لاحقة على تقديم المساعدة في وقت يسمح بإجراء التصحيحات من شأنه أن يضع الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية في وضع أفضل بالنسبة لتقليل مخاطر تقديم المساعدة للكيانات أو الافراد المرتبطين بالإرهاب. توصيات مكتب مساءلة الحكومة يوصي مكتب مساءلة الحكومة، في حالة استئناف التمويل، أن تقوم الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية بـ (1) التحقق من أن الجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المساعدة لديها إجراءات لضمان الامتثال للمتطلبات قبل تقديم المنح للجهات الفرعية، و (2) إجراء مراجعات الامتثال بعد منح المساعدات في وقت يسمح بإجراء التصحيحات قبل إنتهاء المنحة. وقد وافقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية على هذه التوصيات. هذه نسخة بلغة أجنبية لتقرير صدر في مارس/ آذار2021. أﻧﻈﺮ اﻟﻮﺛﯿﻘﺔ21-332-GAO. ﻟﻠﻤﺰﯾﺪ ﻣﻦ اﻟﻤﻌﻠﻮﻣﺎت،ﯾﺮُ ﺟﻰ اﻻﺗﺼﺎل ﺑـ ﻻﺗﯿﺸﺎ ﻟﻮف Latesha Love ﻋﻠﻰ رﻗﻢ اﻟﮭﺎﺗﻒ: 4409-512 (202)، أو ﻣﻦ ﺧﻼل اﻹﯾﻤﯿﻞ: firstname.lastname@example.org[Read More…]
- Retirement Security: DOL Could Better Inform Divorcing Parties About Dividing SavingsBy Sam NewsAugust 28, 2020Although more than one-third of adults aged 50 or older have experienced divorce, few people seek and obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), according to large plan sponsors GAO surveyed. A QDRO establishes the right of an alternate payee, such as a former spouse, to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable to a participant under a retirement plan upon separation or divorce. There are no nationally representative data on the number of QDROs, but plans and record keepers GAO interviewed and surveyed reported that few seek and obtain QDROs. For example, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation administered retirement benefits to about 1.6 million participants, and approved about 16,000 QDROs in the last 10 years. GAO's analysis of other survey data found about one-third of those who experienced a divorce from 2008 to 2016 and reported their former spouse had a retirement plan also reported losing a claim to that spouse's benefits. Many experts stated that some people—especially those with lower incomes—face challenges to successfully navigating the process for obtaining a QDRO, including complexity and cost. Individuals seeking a QDRO may be charged fees for preparation and review of draft orders before they are qualified as QDROs and, according to experts GAO interviewed, these fees vary widely. These experts cited concerns about QDRO review fees that they said in some cases were more than twice the amount of typical fees, and said they may discourage some from pursuing QDROs. Department of Labor (DOL) officials said the agency generally does not collect information on QDRO fees. Exploring ways to collect and analyze information from plans on fees could help DOL ensure costs are reasonable. Divorcing parties who pursue QDROs often had orders not qualified due to lacking basic information, according to plans and record keepers we surveyed (see figure). Plan Administrators and Record Keepers Reported Reasons for Not Qualifying a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) DOL provides some information to help divorcing parties pursue QDROs. However, many experts cited a lack of awareness about QDROs by the public and said DOL could do more to make resources available to divorcing parties. Without additional outreach by DOL, divorcing parties may spend unnecessary time and resources drafting orders that are not likely to be qualified, resulting in unnecessary expenditures of time and money. A domestic relations order (DRO) is a court-issued judgment, decree, or order that, when qualified by a retirement plan administrator, can divide certain retirement benefits in connection with separation or divorce and as such provide crucial financial security to a former spouse. DOL has authority to interpret QDRO requirements. GAO was asked to review the process for obtaining QDROs. This report examines what is known about (1) the number of QDRO recipients, (2) the fees and other expenses for processing QDROs, and (3) the reasons plans do not initially qualify DROs and the challenges experts identify regarding the QDRO process. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed available data, and a total of 14 responses from two surveys of large private sector plans and account record keepers, and interviewed 18 experts including practitioners who provide services to divorcing couples. GAO is recommending that DOL (1) explore ways to collect information on QDRO-related fees charged to participants or alternate payees, and (2) take steps to ensure information about the process for obtaining a QDRO is accessible. DOL generally agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact Kris Nguyen at (202) 512-7215 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks Announcing Lawsuit Against the State of Texas to Challenge Statewide Redistricting PlanBy Sam NewsDecember 6, 2021Thank you, Attorney General Garland.[Read More…]
- Three Tribal Officials Charged in Bribery SchemeBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Two current tribal government officials and one former tribal government official of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) were charged by criminal complaint unsealed today for their alleged acceptance of bribes and kickbacks from a contractor providing construction services on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (FBIR), which is the home of the MHA Nation.[Read More…]
- West Virginia Woman Sentenced for Willful Retention of Top Secret National Defense Information and International Parental KidnappingBy Sam NewsJanuary 25, 2021Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, was sentenced today to 97 months of incarceration for unlawfully retaining documents containing national defense information and 36 months of incarceration for international parental kidnapping. Shirley, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information and one count of international parental kidnapping in July 2020. Shirley admitted to unlawfully retaining a National Security Agency (NSA) document containing information classified at the Top Secret/Secret Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) level relating to the national defense that outlines intelligence information regarding a foreign government’s military and political issues. Shirley also admitted to removing her child, of whom she was the non-custodial parent, to Mexico with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of the custodial father’s parental rights.[Read More…]
- DHS Office of Inspector General: Preliminary Observations on Long-Standing Management and Operational ChallengesBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021What GAO Found GAO's preliminary work has identified a number of management and operational challenges, including frequent leadership turnover, since fiscal year 2015 that have impeded the overall effectiveness of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). DHS OIG senior leaders have acknowledged that these challenges have contributed to organizational weaknesses, and have taken steps to begin addressing some of them. GAO's preliminary work has identified issues in the following areas, among others: Strategic planning: DHS OIG has not consistently developed strategic plans, which are a necessary input for developing the organization's other guiding documents and governance framework. Specifically, DHS OIG has operated for 4 of the past 6 years without a strategic plan, and the plan it adopted for fiscal years 2018–2019 included some, but not all, of the elements considered standard for federal entities. In 2020, DHS OIG contracted with a nonprofit academy of government experts to develop a strategic plan for fiscal years 2021–2025, with expected delivery in June 2021. Quality assurance: Internal and external reviews have reported on concerns about quality assurance in some of DHS OIG's work. In 2017 and 2018, after an internal review found that some reports issued by DHS OIG may not have adhered to the professional standards cited, DHS OIG retracted 13 audit reports that had been issued over a 5-year period. In 2018, an external review determined that DHS OIG needed to improve its system of quality control. Though DHS OIG concurred with all of the recommendations from that external review, it did not fully implement them. In addition, DHS OIG has not established roles and responsibilities for an organization-wide quality assurance program. Moreover, GAO's preliminary work indicates that current staff allocations may limit DHS OIG's quality assurance reviews to focusing on audit work and not on the other types of work it produces, including inspections, evaluations, special reviews, and management alerts. Timeliness: DHS OIG project time frames for work from its offices of Audits and Special Reviews and Evaluations have increased over the 4 fiscal years GAO assessed. For example, in fiscal year 2017, 79 of 102 Office of Audits projects were completed in 1 year or less and eight of 102 took more than 18 months. In fiscal year 2020, seven of 67 reports were completed in 1 year or less and more than half (35 of 67) took more than 18 months. In addition, DHS OIG has not assessed time frames for work completed by these offices, though timeliness in reporting is a key element of effective oversight and DHS OIG staff considered it an organizational weakness. GAO will complete its evaluation of these and other management and operational areas, and will issue a final report in the coming months. Why GAO Did This Study DHS OIG has a critical role in providing independent and objective oversight of DHS, which encompasses multiple operational and support components. OIGs are expected to maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity in light of their mission, according to quality standards developed by the community of federal Inspectors General. However, DHS OIG has faced a number of challenges that have affected its ability to carry out its oversight mission effectively. This statement is based on GAO's draft report on DHS OIG's management and operations, which is currently at the agency for comment. It provides preliminary observations on DHS OIG's strategic planning processes; quality assurance processes; and reporting time frames for work from DHS OIG's offices of Audits and Special Reviews and Evaluations. To develop these preliminary observations, GAO reviewed relevant federal laws and quality standards for federal OIGs as well as DHS OIG documentation, including organizational policies; internal communications such as emails and memoranda; and DHS OIG's semiannual reports to Congress and published reports. GAO also analyzed DHS OIG project data from fiscal years 2015 through 2020, and interviewed DHS OIG leaders and other staff.[Read More…]