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SIGTARP Requests More Transparency from Treasury

TreasuryThe watchdog that oversees the money given under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has called for more transparency from the U.S. Treasury Department.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew dated September 2, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (SIGTARP), Christy Romero, stated that a SIGTARP audit found evidence that the Treasury Department modified "some of the data reported by the financial institutions" in a report on how TARP funds were spent.

According to Romero, Treasury failed to name those banks that do not report on their use of Capital Purchase Program (CPP) funds and made mathematical errors, omissions, and inaccuracies in narrative passages in its summaries. She also said that some postings to Treasury’s website were "not the original documents submitted by the institutions that receive TARP funds."

Not only were the documents not the same, but some were missing, according to the letter. Moreover, Romero chided, the errors are so obvious that "even cursory review should have detected" them. They were, the letter stated, "errors that any member of the public would have encountered."

Romero also cited a requirement for small business lending institutions that receive funding to report annually on how they spend the funds, and then the fact that "eight banks and credit unions have never responded to Treasury" on how they spent TARP money. Despite the audit, Romero said that SIGTARP cannot confirm whether Treasury officials took any kind of disciplinary action against those eight institutions.

Romero named six recommendations to Treasury regarding the issues with the CPP and Community Development Capital Initiative (CDCI) programs ‒‒ the two main focal points of SIGTARP’s investigation: To publicly post original surveys; to develop written and repeatable operating procedures; to enforce annual reporting requirements; to fix all errors; to perform more thorough reviews of all recipients of TARP money; and to publicly report on all CPP and CDCI institutions that do not or have not submitted TARP surveys.

On Aug. 27, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Timothy Bowler responded to a draft version of Romero's letter, stating that Treasury has "reformatted the responses before posting them to our website so that the information cannot be manipulated by a third-party once posted online." Bowler added that Treasury largely agrees with Romero's recommendations and that the department has "already begun to implement many of them."

About Author: Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan is a multi-award-winning journalist and editor based out of Texas. During his 11 years as a newspaper journalist, he wrote more than 4,000 published pieces. He's been recognized for his work since 2001, and his creative writing continues to win acclaim from readers and fellow writers alike. He is also a creative writing teacher and the author of several books, from short fiction to written works about writing.

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