The millions of federal stimulus dollars going toward expanding broadband may not be properly protected. That’s according to a report from the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General and a recent Politico story:
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency that has been managing the program, isn’t doing enough to monitor how grantees are spending the stimulus money, the report finds. The Inspector General also pointed out flaws with the program’s internal processes. For example, NTIA staff needs more training in using the technology systems developed by outside contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to monitor the program’s winners.
“This transfer of IT knowledge is of particular concern because NTIA is a relatively small-staffed agency charged with the execution of a major program, and it has relied heavily on the expertise and capabilities of (Booze Allen Hamilton) in virtually every aspect” of the program, the report said.
NTIA is running the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which distributed $4 billion of the roughly $7 billion in stimulus dollars put aside for broadband expansion efforts. NTIA awarded Booze Allen Hamilton $98 million to help with administration work.
A major hurdle for the agency’s oversight is the fact that Congress did not allocate sufficient funds to manage the program after Dec. 3. Still, the report argues there are alternative ways NTIA can ensure the program is effective. Besides increasing oversight of its contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, other recommendations include completing tasks more quickly and clearly outlining responsibilities for other agencies that support NTIA’s grants program.