Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
The Department of State designates former Guatemalan Minister of Communications, Infrastructure, and Housing Alejandro Sinibaldi due to his involvement in significant corruption. Mr. Sinibaldi engaged in and benefitted from public corruption in relation to his official duties and is now a fugitive from justice.
This designation is made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2019 (Div. F, P.L. 116-6), as carried forward by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. A, P.L. 116-59). Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.
The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members. In addition to the designation of Mr. Sinibaldi, the Department is also publicly designating his spouse, Maria Jose Saravia Mendoza, his son Alejandro Sinibaldi Saravia, and his two minor children.
Today’s action reaffirms U.S. commitment to combatting corruption in Guatemala and around the globe, and it sends a strong signal to other persons involved in significant corruption that they will not receive safe harbor in the United States.
For more information, please contact INL-PAPD@state.gov.
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- VA Health Care: VA Needs to Continue to Strengthen Its Oversight of Quality of State Veterans HomesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays over $1 billion a year to state veterans homes (SVH)—homes owned and operated by the states—to provide nursing home care to approximately 20,000 veterans. In fiscal year 2019, VA paid SVHs $1.17 billion for an average daily census of 20,072 veterans (51 percent of the total veterans receiving nursing home care through VA). Further, VA projects its payments to SVHs will continue to increase; VA projects it will pay $1.7 billion to SVHs to provide care to veterans in fiscal year 2022. VA oversees the quality of care veterans receive at SVHs mainly through annual inspections that VA hires a contractor to perform. In its July 2019 report, GAO found that VA's SVH contractor performed the required annual inspections for all SVHs in 2018, but VA needed to take action to enhance its oversight of SVHs and to ensure that information on quality of care provided in this setting is publicly available to veterans. Specifically, GAO found the following: VA does not require its SVH contractor to identify all failures to meet quality standards during its inspections as deficiencies . For example, GAO found that VA allows its SVH contractor to cite some failures to meet quality standards as “recommendations,” rather than as deficiencies. VA officials said they do not track or monitor the nature of the recommendations or whether they have been addressed. As a result, VA does not have complete information on all failures to meet quality standards at SVHs and cannot track this information to identify trends in quality across these homes. VA is not conducting all monitoring of its SVH contractor. GAO found that, at the time of its review, VA had not monitored the SVH contractor's performance of inspections through regular observational assessments to ensure that contractor staff effectively determine whether SVHs are meeting required standards. Specifically, VA officials said they intended to observe the SVH contractor's inspections on a quarterly basis; however, at the time of GAO's review, VA officials could not recall when VA last observed the SVH contractor's inspections. In July 2020, VA provided information indicating that they will regularly monitor the SVH contractor's performance in conducting inspections through observational assessments. VA does not share information on the quality of SVHs on its website. GAO found that, while VA provides information on the quality of other nursing home care settings on its website, it does not do so for SVHs. According to VA officials, there is no requirement to provide information on SVH quality on its website, as SVHs are owned and operated by the states. VA is the only federal agency that conducts regular oversight inspection on the quality of care of all SVHs and, as a result, is the only agency that could share such quality information on its website. Veterans—like over a million other Americans—rely on nursing home care to help meet their health needs. For eligible veterans whose health needs require skilled nursing and personal care, VA provides or pays for nursing home care in three nursing home settings: the VA-owned and -operated community living centers, public- or privately owned community nursing homes, and state-owned and -operated SVHs. In fiscal year 2019, VA provided or paid for nursing home care for over 39,000 veterans. The majority of these veterans received care at SVHs. This statement summarizes the GAO's July 2019 report, GAO-19-428 , with a focus on issues related to SVHs. Specifically, it describes the: (1) use of and expenditures for SVHs, (2) inspections used by VA to assess the quality of SVH care and VA's oversight of the inspection process, and (3) information VA provides publicly on the quality of SVH care. As part of that work GAO analyzed VA data on expenditures for SVHs and interviewed VA officials. For this statement GAO reviewed expenditure and utilization data for fiscal year 2019. In its July 2019 report, GAO made three recommendations related to SVHs, including that VA require that all failures to meet quality standards are cited as deficiencies on SVH inspections. VA concurred with two recommendations and concurred in principle with the third. VA has addressed one recommendation and continued attention is needed to address the two remaining recommendations. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Behavioral Health and COVID-19: Higher-Risk Populations and Related Federal Relief FundingBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2021What GAO Found The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic crisis—such as increased social isolation, stress, and unemployment—have intensified concerns about the number of people in the U.S. affected by behavioral health conditions: mental health and substance use disorders. Based on 32 interviews with federal, state, and other stakeholders, and a review of selected research, GAO found that certain populations may be at higher risk of new or exacerbated behavioral health symptoms or conditions related to the pandemic. Six populations were cited by the most stakeholders as being at higher risk of such behavioral health effects for a range of reasons. Children and adolescents, for example, had rising rates of behavioral health conditions before the pandemic and then faced disruptions to school-based behavioral health services, stakeholders said. They also said that people may be part of multiple higher-risk populations, though not everyone at risk will develop symptoms or conditions. Stakeholders cautioned that with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, it will take time to determine how different populations may be affected in the long term. Populations Cited by the Most Stakeholders as Being at Higher Risk of Behavioral Health Effects As of November 2021, the federal government awarded over $8 billion in COVID-19 relief funding for behavioral health. Over 97 percent of this funding was provided to states and other recipients through six programs: one Federal Emergency Management Agency program, and five Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) programs. For example, SAMHSA awarded about $5.3 billion to 50 states, Washington, D.C., eight U.S. territories and other jurisdictions, and one tribe through supplements to existing substance abuse and mental health block grants using standard statutory formulas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also awarded about $467 million to 46 states, Washington, D.C., and four U.S. territories via the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program. GAO's review of program documentation shows that the COVID-19 relief funds for behavioral health, as awarded through the six programs, could generally serve the six higher-risk populations identified by stakeholders. Selected funding recipients in four states and Washington, D.C., reported varying ways they were using, or planned to use, relief funds to reach higher-risk populations. For example, officials in one state said they planned to use some mental health block grant funds to assist children and adolescents in the child protective services system. SAMHSA officials said that it would take time to determine who was actually served by COVID-19 relief funded programs, but said that it was important to examine grantee data to determine whether target populations were reached and identify any gaps, and the agency planned to do so. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic has had repercussions for the behavioral health of the nation. During the pandemic, U.S. adults have reported higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms and substance use. To address related concerns, the CARES Act; the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021; and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 appropriated relief funds specifically for behavioral health. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes (1) populations that may be at higher risk of behavioral health effects; (2) the amount and type of funding the federal government provided in COVID-19 relief to address behavioral health needs; and (3) whether COVID-19 relief funds for behavioral health could serve higher-risk populations, and how selected funding recipients plan to use these funds. GAO will continue to monitor behavioral health issues as part of ongoing COVID-19 related oversight. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed selected research on COVID-19 and behavioral health, and relevant federal funding opportunity and awards documents. GAO also interviewed stakeholders, such as federal officials, researchers, and grantees. Grantees included state officials and providers in four states and Washington, D.C., selected based on state behavioral health metrics and CARES Act-funded grants received, among other factors. GAO incorporated technical comments from the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, as appropriate. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Former Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent and Task Force Officer Convicted of Conspiracy and Conversion of PropertyBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021A former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent and a former DEA task force officer were convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, in connection with a long-running scheme to steal personal property and money from individuals who had been arrested.[Read More…]
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- Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Illegal Exports to Northwestern Polytechnical UniversityBy Sam NewsApril 28, 2021A Chinese national pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston in connection with illegally procuring and causing the illegal export of $100,000 worth of U.S. origin goods to Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU), a Chinese military university that is heavily involved in military research and works closely with the People’s Liberation Army on the advancement of its military capabilities.[Read More…]
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- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Veterans AffairsBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 33 priority recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since then, VA has implemented 13 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to ensure that veterans receive evidence-based mental health treatment. In May 2021, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for VA, bringing the total number to 28. These recommendations involve the following areas: response to the COVID-19 pandemic; veterans’ access to timely health care; the veterans community care program; human capital management; information technology; appeals reform for disability benefits; quality of care and patient safety; veteran suicide prevention; efficiency within the VA health care system; national policy documents; procurement policies and practices; and capital planning. Addressing the high priority recommendations identified above has the potential to significantly improve VA's operations, including those related to COVID-19. 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 A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic RaabBy Sam NewsAugust 28, 2021
- Combating Illegal Fishing: Clear Authority Could Enhance U.S. Efforts to Partner with Other Nations at SeaBy Sam NewsDecember 6, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. works with other nations through multilateral agreements to collectively manage high seas fisheries. For example, the U.S. is a member of nine regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO), which are treaty-based organizations of nations with an interest in managing and conserving fisheries in specific regions of the sea. These organizations establish rules for vessels fishing in the RFMO agreement area, such as limits on the numbers and types of fish that can be caught. In addition, the U.S. establishes bilateral agreements and conducts at-sea operations focused on strengthening other nations' capacity to manage their own fisheries and fleets. For example, the Department of Defense (DOD) leads a program aimed at building African partner nations' capability to enhance maritime security and enforce their maritime laws. However, DOD officials told us that, as a result of changes to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the department no longer has clear authority to conduct the operational phase of this program—known as Operation Junction Rain. By determining whether it has the authority to conduct this operation, and, if not, seeking such authority, DOD could continue efforts to support African partner nations' capability to enforce fisheries laws and regulations, which in turn helps them work to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Coast Guard Officials Preparing to Board and Inspect a Fishing Vessel The U.S. collects and analyzes information from various sources to identify potential IUU fishing at sea outside of U.S. waters. For example, Coast Guard analyzes vessel location data to identify movements that may signal potential IUU fishing, and officials told us they use this data analysis to help to guide at-sea patrol operations to target these vessels. Several interagency groups and processes help coordinate federal efforts to combat IUU fishing at sea. For example, an interagency working group, established by the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement Act in 2019, coordinates U.S. efforts to address IUU fishing government-wide. We found that the working group generally followed selected leading collaboration practices, such as developing a written work plan. The working group's tasks include assessing areas for increased agency information-sharing on IUU fishing-related matters, identifying priority regions and nations, and developing a 5-year strategic plan to combat IUU fishing and enhance maritime security. Why GAO Did This Study IUU fishing undermines the economic and environmental sustainability of the fishing industry in the U.S. and globally. IUU fishing encompasses many illicit activities, including under-reporting the number of fish caught and using prohibited fishing gear. While the illicit nature of IUU fishing means its consequences can only be estimated, a recent study estimates catches from IUU fishing could cause global economic losses up to $50 billion annually. A variety of federal agencies coordinate with one another, as well as internationally, to address IUU fishing at sea. GAO was asked to review federal efforts to combat IUU fishing outside of U.S. waters. This report examines how the U.S. (1) works with other nations to address IUU fishing at sea, (2) identifies potential incidents of IUU fishing at sea, and (3) coordinates its interagency efforts to combat IUU fishing at sea and the extent to which selected efforts are consistent with leading collaboration practices. GAO reviewed various international agreements and the mechanisms that support these efforts, as well as other relevant agency documents. We also spoke with officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, and DOD, among others, about their approaches to identifying and combating IUU fishing at sea.[Read More…]
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- Biodefense: After-Action Findings and COVID-19 Response Revealed Opportunities to Strengthen PreparednessBy Sam NewsAugust 4, 2021What GAO Found Key federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Agriculture (USDA), developed a range of interagency response plans to prepare for nationally significant biological incidents. These strategic, operational, and tactical level plans address responding to a broad spectrum of biological threats, including those that are intentional, accidental, or naturally occurring. DHS, DOD, HHS, and USDA conducted numerous interagency exercises to help prepare for and respond to a wide variety of biological incidents, such as anthrax attacks, influenza pandemics, and diseases affecting plants and animals. Specifically, GAO identified 74 interagency biological incident exercises conducted from calendar years 2009 through 2019. Number of Interagency Biological Incident Exercises Conducted, Calendar Years 2009 through 2019 GAO's analysis of after-action reports for selected interagency biological incident exercises and real-world incidents, as well as the COVID-19 response, identified long-standing biodefense challenges. GAO found that the nation lacked elements necessary for preparing for nationally significant biological incidents, including a process at the interagency level to assess and communicate priorities for exercising capabilities. Further, it determined that agencies do not routinely work together in monitoring results from exercises and real-world incidents to identify patterns and root causes for systemic challenges. Assessing and communicating exercise priorities and routinely monitoring the results of the exercises and incidents will help ensure the nation is better prepared to respond to the next biological threat. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic shows how catastrophic biological incidents can cause substantial loss of life, economic damage, and require a whole-of-nation response involving multiple federal and nonfederal entities. The 2018 National Biodefense Strategy outlines specific goals and objectives to help prepare for and respond to such incidents. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of federal efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from COVID-19. This report addresses: (1) interagency plans key federal agencies developed, and exercises they conducted, to help prepare for biological incidents; and (2) the extent to which exercises and real-world incidents revealed opportunities to better achieve National Biodefense Strategy objectives. GAO reviewed biological incident plans and after-action reports from exercises and real-world incidents from calendar years 2009 through 2019, including a non-generalizable sample of 19 reports selected based on threat scenario and other factors. GAO interviewed federal and state officials to obtain their perspectives on plans, exercises, and the COVID-19 response.[Read More…]
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