Claims by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it had used over $9 billion in economic stimulus funds to create 10,600 jobs during just three months of 2011 may not be true, according the USDA's inspector general.
Background: Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), the USDA received a total of $28 billion in funding in a number of program areas believed by Congress to have a potential for job creation.
From January 1, through March 31, 2012, the USDA reported having awarded approximately 4,960 Recovery Act grants totaling $9.29 billion on the Recovery.gov web site, created to inform taxpayers of how their Recovery Act funds are being spent.
In addition, the recipients of the USDA Recover Act grants reported that their use of the grant funds had resulted in the creation or retention of approximately 10,600 jobs during first quarter of 2011. However, USDA's Assistant Inspector General (IG) for Audit Gil H. Harden reported that those job number claims might not be true.
What the Inspector General Found: In his report, the IG found that the USDA had failed to provide lawmakers or the public with any way of verifying that any of the jobs had actually been created or retained. "Without accurate data about the number of jobs USDA agencies retained or created through the use of Recovery Act Funds, it is difficult to measure how effective the department was in accomplishing a main Recovery Act objective, which was to create or retain jobs," wrote the IG.
Also See: About the U.S. Inspectors General
After investigating 99 of the "job creating" projects listed as funded by USDA grants, IG Harden found that 33 of them (33%) contained incorrect job data. "Some recipients used incorrect payroll hours, reported cumulative job numbers as opposed to the jobs created in that quarter, or reported the same jobs twice for projects that received multiple award, most often one loan and one grant," Harden reported.
On the other hand, but no less troubling, the IG also found that the USDA had underestimated the number of jobs created by some USDA-funded projects. "For example, when we contacted a recipient who reported zero jobs created or retained, we found that multiple employees performed work on the Recovery Act project," the IG found. "When we asked the recipients why they did not report more accurate information, they explained that these errors were due to misunderstanding the requirements or human error while entering the data."
What the Inspector General Recommended: As you might expect, the IG recommended the USDA's Office of the Chief Financial Officer take steps to ensure that the number of jobs created and saved through the expenditure of Recovery Act funds reported to the public is true and accurate.