Troubled Asset Relief Program:

Status of Efforts to Address Transparency and Accountability Issues

GAO-09-474T: Published: Mar 11, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2009.

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This testimony discusses our work on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), under which the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has the authority to purchase and insure up to $700 billion in troubled assets held by financial institutions through its Office of Financial Stability (OFS). As Congress may know, Treasury was granted this authority in response to the financial crisis that has threatened the stability of the U.S. banking system and the solvency of numerous financial institutions. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (the act) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, requires GAO to report at least every 60 days on findings resulting from our oversight of the actions taken under TARP. This testimony is based primarily on our January 30, 2009 report, the second under the act's mandate, which covers the actions taken as part of TARP through January 23, 2009, and follows up on the nine recommendations we made in our December 2, 2008 report. This testomony also provides additional information on some recent developments related to TARP, including Treasury's new financial stability plan.

Treasury has made progress in establishing a management structure for TARP, including adopting a framework for developing and implementing its system of internal control for TARP activities that is consistent with our recommendation. However, as of our January report, OFS had yet to implement a disciplined risk-assessment process. Treasury has taken steps to help ensure a smooth transition to a new administration by keeping positions filled and using an expedited hiring process. However, it continues to face difficulty providing competitive salaries to attract skilled employees. Also, given the TARP's evolving nature and the changes under the new administration, Treasury needs to identify OFS's long-term organizational needs. Additionally, consistent with our recommendation on contracting oversight, Treasury has enhanced such oversight by tracking costs, schedules, and performance and addressing the training requirements of personnel who oversee the contracts. However, as we previously recommended, Treasury needs to continue to identify and mitigate conflicts of interest in contracting.

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