SIGTARP's Romero: Treasury needs stronger billing requirements

Thursday - 4/14/2011, 6:36pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program found the Treasury Department paid legal bills without first making sure the bills were accurate.

Acting SIGTARP Christy Romero said the problem was rooted in a lack of billing description requirements for the legal firms. Treasury's Office of Financial Stability - which oversees TARP funds - did not provide instructions to staff reviewing the bills for "accuracy and reasonableness," Romero said in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

"Instead, it was a very informal process," she said.

The SIGTARP report focused on bills to Venable LLC law firm, but in all the office reviewed contracts with five law firms totaling $27 million. Romera said the weaknesses found in the Venable contracts were also present in the other law firms' contracts.

SIGTARP's recommendations to Treasury:

  • Establish detailed requirements for how bills should be prepared.
  • Once the requirements are establishes, put the requirements in the contract.
  • Develop internal procedures and instructions for employees who review bills.
  • Go back and review bills the OFS already paid and identify unreasonable charges to seek reimbursement.

Romero said OFS has take "very good first steps" toward implementing these recommendations.