January 23, 2022

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Two Men Charged in Ecuadorian Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

14 min read
<div>Criminal complaints have been unsealed charging two Ecuadorian citizens for their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving Ecuador’s public police pension fund (ISSPOL).</div>
Criminal complaints have been unsealed charging two Ecuadorian citizens for their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving Ecuador’s public police pension fund (ISSPOL).

More from: March 2, 2021

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  • Private Water Utilities: Actions Needed to Enhance Ownership Data
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Available information on private for-profit drinking water utilities shows that 14 publicly traded companies served customers in 33 states in 2019. However, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) primary source of publicly available information on U.S. drinking water utilities—the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)—contains ownership information that is limited by inaccuracies. EPA collects information in SDWIS from states but does not include definitions for utility ownership types in its data entry guidance. In addition, EPA takes actions to verify some of the data, but does not verify or correct ownership data. EPA and others use SDWIS for purposes such as analyzing Safe Drinking Water Act violations by type of utility ownership. Such analysis can help EPA and states build utility capacity to provide safe drinking water. By defining ownership types, and verifying and correcting the data in SDWIS, EPA could help ensure the data are accurate and reliable for users of the data and the public. EPA provided over $500 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) assistance to for-profit utilities for 226 projects to help ensure delivery of safe drinking water from January 2010 through June 2020. EPA's Drinking Water SRF program, created under the Safe Drinking Water Act, provides grants to states for low- or no-interest loans or grants to drinking water utilities for infrastructure projects. The amount provided to for-profit water utilities is small, about 2 percent of the $26.5 billion provided overall from January 2010 through June 2020. States That Provided Private For-Profit Utilities with Assistance from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, since January 2010 Why GAO Did This Study The roughly 50,000 drinking water utilities in the United States face steep costs—more than $470 billion over the next 20 years, according to EPA estimates—to repair and replace drinking water infrastructure. These costs are passed on to customers through water rates. States regulate the rates charged by privately owned water utilities. EPA has responsibilities to implement programs to further the health protection objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act. GAO was asked to review private for-profit drinking water utilities and rates. This report examines, among other things, (1) information available from EPA and other sources about the number and characteristics of private for-profit water utilities in the United States, and (2) Drinking Water SRF assistance provided to private for-profit water utilities. GAO reviewed EPA SDWIS data, Drinking Water SRF data, and Global Water Intelligence data, as well as EPA's and others' documents. GAO also interviewed EPA and water utility stakeholders.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) prepositions equipment to help ensure combat-ready forces receive equipment in days rather than the weeks it would take if it had to be moved from the United States to their location. Prepositioned stocks may also support activities including disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. As GAO's third report in response to Congress's annual reporting requirement, GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) met the six reporting requirements in the annual report to Congress on its prepositioned stocks, and whether additional information may be needed related to those requirements; (2) developed effective departmentwide guidance on prepositioned stocks to achieve national military objectives; and (3) organized effectively to provide joint oversight over its prepositioning programs and achieve efficiencies. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant DOD reports, strategies, and policies, and met with DOD and service officials in the U.S., Kuwait, and Qatar.In its 2010 report to Congress, DOD generally responded to its six required reporting elements and GAO's prior recommendations, which resulted in a more informative report. However, DOD's report does not discuss the full range of prepositioned equipment, such as Army equipment required in excess of a military unit's authorization to meet specific combatant command planning requirements. The Army may spend at least $441 million to replenish this equipment, which is part of the $4.5 billion needed to fully reconstitute the Army's prepositioned stocks. Without this information, Congress may lack a complete picture of areas where potential efficiencies may be gained. In addition, DOD's report does not list any operation plan affected by shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, as required. Further, DOD's report does not include the specific risks of such shortfalls, the full range of mitigation factors, and the extent to which these factors reduce risk. Although not required, we believe that such information would help clarify DOD's assessment of the consequences of choosing among options and continuing evaluation of areas where the department can assume greater risk, as called for in its 2008 National Defense Strategy. DOD has limited departmentwide guidance that would help ensure that its prepositioning programs accurately reflect national military objectives, such as those included in the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. DOD has developed departmentwide guidance, referred to as Guidance for Development of the Force, but as of September 2010 this guidance contained little information related to prepositioned stocks even though DOD's 2008 instruction on prepositioned stocks specifically directed the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to develop such guidance. Furthermore, the information the services use to determine their requirements for prepositioned stocks may not clearly state the full range of DOD's need for these stocks. DOD's challenges in identifying the full range of potential demands for prepositioned stocks highlight the importance of departmentwide guidance specifying planning and funding priorities associated with DOD's current and future needs in this area. DOD faces organizational challenges which may hinder its efforts to gain efficiencies in managing prepositioned assets across the department. Specifically, DOD has been unable to ensure that the working group established to address joint prepositioning issues achieves its objectives because the working group lacks clearly stated lines of authority and reporting to other components within DOD. As a result, the working group may not be able to effectively synchronize or integrate, as appropriate, the services' prepositioning programs and the results of its efforts may not go beyond the working group itself. According to joint and service officials, efficiencies or cost savings could be gained through improved joint program management across the services and leveraging components in DOD such as the Defense Logistics Agency, which may be able to provide efficiencies in delivering stocks during early stages of contingency operations. GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Defense take five actions to provide comprehensive information, develop overarching guidance, and enhance joint oversight to increase program efficiencies. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendations.
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  • Covid-19 Housing Protections: Moratoriums Have Helped Limit Evictions, but Further Outreach Is Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Eviction moratoriums at the federal, state, and local levels reduced eviction filings during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, some eligible renters may not have benefitted from a recent federal moratorium. GAO's analysis of 63 jurisdictions found that the median rate of eviction filings was about 74 percent lower in the last week of July 2020—when a moratorium included in the CARES Act expired—than in the same week in 2019. Eviction filings remained lower throughout 2020 (relative to 2019) but gradually increased during a separate moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020 (see fig.). During this moratorium, jurisdictions without separate state or local moratoriums experienced larger increases in eviction filings, which suggests that some renters may not fully understand how to use the CDC moratorium (completing required documentation). CDC extended its moratorium through March 31, 2021, but has taken few steps to promote awareness and understanding of the moratorium and its requirements. Clear, accurate, and timely information is essential to keep the public informed during the pandemic. Without a communication and outreach plan, including federal coordination, CDC will be missing an opportunity to ensure that eligible renters avoid eviction. Year-over-Year Percentage Change in Eviction Filings in 63 Jurisdictions Note: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) moratorium is active through March 31, 2021. Local moratoriums include separate state or local eviction moratoriums. Unlike the CARES Act, CDC's moratorium does not prohibit eviction filings, which could explain some increases. By late January 2021, Treasury had disbursed 99 percent of the $25 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance funds to state and other eligible grantees responsible for making rent and utility payments to recipients. Treasury's initial program guidance issued that month did not fully define some program requirements and included requirements that could have delayed the delivery of funds or deter participation. In late February 2021, Treasury updated its guidance to address several of these concerns, such as by providing grantees with flexibility for prioritizing lower income applicants and allowing written attestation of income. Although the guidance did not clarify certain data collection and spending requirements, officials said they will continue to update guidance to address stakeholder concerns and strike a balance between accountability and administrative efficiency. GAO will continue to actively monitor these efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Millions of renters and property owners continue to experience housing instability and financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these concerns, Congress and CDC created eviction moratoriums, and Congress appropriated $25 billion to Treasury to disburse to state and local grantees to administer emergency rental assistance programs to help those behind on their rent. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor federal efforts related to COVID-19. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how eviction moratoriums have contributed to housing stability during the pandemic and (2) Treasury's implementation of the Emergency Rental Assistance program. GAO analyzed data on eviction filings and local policies in a sample of 63 jurisdictions (selected based on data availability) from January to December 2020. GAO also analyzed Census Bureau survey data on rental payments and data from federal housing entities on mortgage forbearance. GAO interviewed officials from CDC, Treasury, and organizations representing renters, property owners, and rental assistance grantees.
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  • Five Charged in Scheme to Export Thermal Imaging Scopes and Night Vision Goggles to Russia, in Violation of Arms Export Control Act
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Los Angeles unsealed an indictment Thursday that accuses five defendants of conspiring to unlawfully export defense articles to Russia. Specifically, the defendants allegedly exported thermal imaging riflescopes and night-vision goggles without a license, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
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  • Critical Infrastructure Protection: Education Should Take Additional Steps to Help Protect K-12 Schools from Cyber Threats
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Federal guidance, such as the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (National Plan), specify the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Secure Schools, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist school districts in protecting against cyber threats. These agencies have provided programs, services, and support to assist kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) schools in defending against cyber threats. Examples of such support include incident response assistance, network monitoring tools, and guidance for parents and students on preparing for the cyber threats that students face online (see table). Federal Resources for Cyberattacks on Kindergarten through Grade 12 (K-12) Schools As the lead for the education subsector, the Department of Education is responsible for (1) developing and maintaining a sector-specific plan to address cybersecurity risks at K-12 schools, and (2) determining the need for sector-specific guidance. The Education Facilities plan was developed and issued in 2010. Since then, the cybersecurity risks facing the subsector have substantially changed. Among other things, schools have increasingly reported ransomware and other cyberattacks that can cause significant disruptions to school operations, thus highlighting the importance of securing K-12 schools' IT systems. According to data from K-12 Security Information Exchange, schools publicly reported 62 ransomware incidents in 2019, compared to 11 ransomware incidents reported in 2018. However, Education has not updated its 2010 plan and has not determined whether sector-specific guidance is needed for K-12 schools to help protect against cyber threats. Education officials stated that the department has not updated the sector plan and not determined the need for sector-specific guidance because CISA has not directed it to do so. However, as previously stated, the department is responsible for updating its sector plan and determining the need for guidance. As a result, K-12 schools are less likely to have the federal products, services, and support that can best help protect them from cyberattacks. Why GAO Did This Study When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools across the nation, many K-12 schools moved from in-person to remote education, increasing their dependence on IT and making them potentially more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Education Facilities, including K-12 schools, is one of the nation's critical infrastructure subsectors. Several agencies have a role in protecting the subsector. GAO was asked to review cybersecurity in K-12 schools. The objective of this report is to determine the extent that federal agencies have assisted schools in protecting themselves from cyber threats. To do so, GAO identified laws and federal guidance that specify the roles and responsibilities of federal agencies to assist schools in protecting against cyber threats. GAO analyzed documentation of the types of products and services federal agencies have in place to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from attacks. In addition, GAO interviewed federal officials about such products and services they offer to K-12 schools.
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