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Eye on ED
22 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Women in Federal Law Enforcement
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we interview three women in Federal law enforcement leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General (OIG). In the United States, law enforcement is an indisputably male-dominated profession. According to the National Institute of Justice, women constitute less than 13 percent of total officers and a much smaller proportion of leadership positions. At the OIG, our numbers are higher than average, as about 29 percent of our law enforcement agents are women and 28 percent of our law enforcement leaders are women. Is that a sign that things are changing? What are the challenges to women in law enforcement? And what are the rewards? And if you are interested in law enforcement, how do you get started? These are some of questions we ask our guests—three of OIG’s law enforcement leaders. And here's a little sneak preview: each one of them started on the ground floor and worked their way up in the leadership ranks, breaking glass ceilings all along the way. Our guests:Yessyka Santana, the Director of Policy and National Initiatives for OIG Investigation Services. She's been in Federal law enforcement with the OIG for almost 25 years. Terry Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the OIG Eastern Regional Investigative Office. She's been in Federal law enforcement close to 30 years. Nicole Gardner, the Special Agent in Charge of the OIG’s Headquarters Operations Office. She's been in Federal law enforcement for 20 years. Visit our website for the complete transcript of the episode, as well as bios and contact information for our guests: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/newsroom.html#Podcasts
14 minutes | Feb 11, 2020
Protecting Federal K–12 Funds from Fraud
You’ve probably read the headlines in newspapers. School officials—some very senior officials like school superintendents and school board members—have gone to prison for stealing or otherwise abusing Federal education funds. In our Semiannual Reports to Congress, we regularly share examples of our investigative cases involving millions of dollars lost to fraud, abuse, and criminal activity involving these K–12 funds. The U.S. Department of Education disburses billions of dollars each year to individuals and local, State, and Federal entities, including school districts, schools, colleges, and universities. But every year bad actors intentionally misuse, steal, or otherwise abuse those funds for their own selfish purposes. This is particularly egregious when it involves funding that supports the education of kids in kindergarten through twelfth grade, as the perpetrators of these crimes tend to be school officials—people in positions of trust to educate children.The Office of Inspector General works to stop those who steal or otherwise abuse these funds. We investigate cases involving things like nepotism, quid pro quo, procurement fraud, construction fraud, and personal enrichment. But we can’t do this alone. We need your help. Whether you are a school employee, volunteer, employee of a business that has contracts with the schools and school districts, a parents of students, or just a concerned community member, we need you to speak up when something doesn't seem right. Tune in to this episode to hear about some of our fraud cases, and to learn about signs of possible fraud and how to report it. You'll get the scoop from Ali Turon, a criminal investigator with our Dallas Regional Office, and Dana McKay, a criminal investigator in our Denver Office. And then you can join the effort to protect Federal K–12 funds.Download brochures, flyers, and posters on stopping Federal education fraud.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 6.
11 minutes | Oct 3, 2019
Education OIG Work on Improper Payments
In this episode, we talk about the Education OIG's work involving improper payments. Improper payments are payments made by the government to the wrong person, in the wrong amount, or for the wrong reason. Identifying and recovering improper payments is a statutory requirement for Federal agencies, as effective stewardship of taxpayer funds is a critical responsibility of every agency within the Federal Government. For fiscal year 2018, the Department’s improper payments estimate was about $6 billion, which mainly comes from two of its student aid programs: the Pell Grant program and the Direct Loan program. Per its Agency Financial Report, the Department says that improper payments in these programs are generally a result of administrative or process errors made by recipients of Federal money. That amount may sound very high, but it is not nearly as large as some other Federal programs at other agencies. But anytime you are talking about billions of taxpayer dollars, improper payments are an issue. In fact, it’s one of the Education OIG's top Management Challenges for the Department. Every year, we are required to identify and report on the most serious management challenges the Department faces. Improper payments is regularly one of the top challenges that we identify. The subject of improper payments may sound like a challenging topic for a short podcast, but we have two people who are up for the challenge. In this episode, you'll hear from Robert Janney, an auditor from our Philadelphia office, and Michelene Matthews, an auditor from our Atlanta office.Read the full Education OIG audit report on The U.S. Department of Education’s Compliance with Improper Payment Reporting Requirements for Fiscal Year 2018.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 5.
11 minutes | Jul 18, 2019
Proteger los Fondos de Recuperación por Desastre del Desperdicio, el Fraude, el Abuso y la Actividad Criminal
Bienvenidos a un episodio especial de Eye on ED—el podcast oficial de la Oficina del Inspector General del Departamento de Educación. La Oficina del Inspector General tiene una parte crítica en el proceso federal para la recuperación de desastres. Estamos encargados de auditar al Departamento de Educación en el gasto de los fondos designados para la recuperación, examinar la eficacia de los programas de recuperación, e investigar el mal uso, robo, y otra actividad criminal involucrando estos fondos. Es nuestra responsabilidad asegurar que los fondos del Departamento designados para la recuperación de desastres son utilizados para los fines y objetivos requeridos. Esta en marcha nuestro trabajo involucrando los fondos para la recuperación de desastres. Empleados de la Oficina del Inspector General se han reunido con agencias educativas estatales y territoriales, gobiernos, y agentes del orden para enfatizar la importancia de establecer controles fuertes para proteger estos fondos. De esto vamos a hablar hoy— como necesitamos la ayuda del publico para proteger estos fondos federales de fraude, dispendio, abuso, y otra actividad criminal. Priscilla Resto, Agente Residente a Cargo, está con nosotros hoy para hablar de este tema.Get more information on Education OIG's disaster recovery efforts.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 4.
12 minutes | Jul 18, 2019
Education OIG Oversight of Disaster Recovery Efforts
When you think about natural disasters, like hurricanes or wildfires, and the Federal response to those disasters, you are probably thinking about FEMA, not the U.S. Department of Education. Yet the Department received about $2.7 billion to help schools in the States and territories impacted by the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. Those funds can be used for a number of different things, including renting mobile educational units in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, replacing textbooks and other instructional materials, developing curricula, and transporting students in cases where the entire school was destroyed and the students ended up going someplace else. They can also be used recover electronic student and personnel data, or even to replace entire school district information systems. In some cases, these entire systems were wiped out. These systems contain all sorts of important information: demographic data, student grades, attendance data—all these things that are necessary for districts and schools for accountability purposes. The Education Office of Inspector General plays a critical role in overseeing the use of those disaster recovery funds. We audit grantee spending, we examine the effectiveness of the programs, and we investigate allegations of fraud, theft, and other wrongdoing involving these funds. It’s our job to make sure that these funds are spent appropriately and as intended. Join us as we talk to two Education OIG staffers who are right in the thick of these oversight efforts. From Investigation Services, we have Neil Sanchez, Special Agent in Charge of the OIG’s Southern Regional Office. And from Audit Services, we have Keith Cummins, Acting Director of our K–12 audit unit. Find out about the work the OIG did on the ground in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other locations, and hear why disasters and recovery efforts provide unique opportunities for criminals to exploit vulnerable people. And: learn how you can help identify and report possible fraud in your schools and communities.Get more information on Education OIG's disaster recovery efforts.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 3.
11 minutes | Mar 6, 2019
Education OIG Audit of FSA Oversight of Student Loan Servicing
Join us as we talk with Howard Sorensen, Assistant Counsel to the InspectorGeneral, and Greg Bernert, an auditor from the Education OIG Chicago office. They will talk to us about an Education OIG audit of Federal Student Aid, or FSA, oversight of student loan servicers. Specifically, the audit looked at whether steps FSA took to oversee the servicers lowered the risk of servicers not complying with laws and regulations.Since 2011, the Department of Education and the Federal Student Aid office has been the sole source of Federal student loans. The Department has more than a trillion dollars in student loans spread over millions of individual borrowers. The Department can’t make and collect these loans all by itself, so it has hired companies called servicers to do the work to collect the loans after students graduate from college. Because FSA has contracts with these companies, FSA needs to make sure the companies do what they promise the Department they will do. Loan servicers are the companies that send a graduate the first letter, “Congratulations, you’ve graduated, now you need to start paying your loans.” They collect the payments, they send reminder notices to students, these are the companies that answer the phone to answer any questions students have about their loans. If they encounter financial difficulties and need to come up with a different payment plan, these are the companies they have to call to get answers on behalf of the Department of Education. So Federal Student Aid contracts with these companies, and because they contract with these companies, they need to make sure the companies do what they promise the Department they will do. The Education OIG audit found that overall, FSA’s policies and procedures did not really lower the risk of loan servicers' noncompliance. We had two significant findings. First, the audit that FSA wasn’t tracking all of the noncompliance it identified. In fact, if FSA found something wrong onsite, and the servicer promised to fix it, FSA didn’t enter that noncompliance into the database that it used to record noncompliance. Also, FSA didn't use using the information it did have to identify trends or patterns of repeated noncompliance at each servicer or across servicers. And second, the audit found that FSA rarely held servicers accountable for the noncompliance it did identify. Why does it matter? Servicer noncompliance can impact taxpayer dollars and borrowers. In terms of the taxpayer dollars that fund the Federal studentaid programs: FSA might be paying the loan servicers more than the servicers are entitled to. If FSA doesn’t recoup money from loan servicers for their noncompliance and doesn’t adjust the number of loans noncompliant servicers are assigned, FSA ends up paying more than it should. Also, if FSA doesn’t hold servicers accountable, the servicers have less incentive to follow all the rules. There could be a tremendous impact on borrowers, too. Unless the servicers give the borrowers correct information about the repayment options that they have under the law, they may be paying more than they need to under their financial circumstances. They could even end up defaulting on their loan. Read the full Education OIG audit report on FSA oversight of student loan servicers.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 2.
8 minutes | Jan 17, 2019
Education OIG Audit of the Department’s processing of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act complaints
What can happen if the U.S. Department of Education doesn't comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly referred to as FERPA? FERPA grants rights and protections to students related to the personal information in their education records. FERPA violations can have a big impact on students. Violations could lead to bullying or affect students’ ability to graduate or get a job. So students rely on the Department to take timely action to resolve their complaints.In this episode, we talk with senior auditor Ruth Dunlop about an Education OIG audit that looked at the Department of Education's processes for reviewing and resolving FERPA complaints. Specifically, it evaluated whether the Department had implemented controls to ensure that it was handling complaints in a timely and effective manner. By “controls,” we mean the mechanisms that management puts in place to ensure that activities are carried out efficiently, effectively, and as required by law or regulation. The audit found that the Department was not resolving FERPA complaints timely, and in fact, had a substantial backlog of complaints waiting to be investigated. We also found that the Department had control weaknesses that undermined both the timeliness and the effectiveness of the process. Some students and families had to wait years before hearing anything from the Department about their complaints. Some people actually contacted their members of Congress to complain about the Department’s lack of action. Learn more about our findings and what it means for students and parents in this episode!Read the full Education OIG audit report on FERPA.Read the transcript for Eye on ED episode 1.
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