'Consider hiring an accountant': Rep. Foxx puts pressure on the Department of Education
'If you weren’t scrolling through the [DOEd’s] recent financial statement—you missed a doozy!,' Rep. Virginia Foxx, Chairwoman of the Committee on Education & the Workforce, said in a blog post.
'This agency is bleeding hardworking Americans’ wallets dry and appears to be cooking its books in an attempt to hide it. This is unacceptable and utterly dishonest,' Foxx told Campus Reform.
The Department of Education (DOEd) is under congressional scrutiny again.
“If you weren’t scrolling through the [DOEd’s] recent financial statement—you missed a doozy!,” Committee on Education & the Workforce’s (Committee) recent blog reads.
KPMG LLP, a global financial consulting group, undertook an independent audit of the DOEd’s FY21-22 financial statements, and concluded on page 116 of the report that they “have not been able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion.”
In reference to the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program, the report cites that the DOEd’s “management was unable to provide adequate evidential matter to support certain key assumptions used to estimate the subsidy costs.”
“As a result of this matter, we were unable to determine whether any adjustments to the balance sheet might have been necessary with respect to the fiscal year 2022,” the KPMG’s report summarizes.
The Committee says this is “a sham.”
“The Department is blatantly lying about how much taxpayer money it is giving away. Two years and a half a trillion dollars later, it appears nothing has changed,” the blog’s statement from Chairwoman of the Committee Rep. Virginia Foxx reads. “This auditor said it wouldn’t touch the Department’s shoddy guesses with a ten-foot pole let alone sign off on them. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Responding to the Committee’s blog, a DOEd spokesperson alluded to Campus Reform that the DOEd’s inability to provide estimates is no need for concern.
“The initial assumptions in the estimate were based on information available at the time that was applied to a new program that had not yet launched. The ongoing court challenges to the program have blocked individuals from applying to the program, and therefore the [DOEd] has not been able to use concrete application data to demonstrate the accuracy of its estimated take-up rate. We look forward to prevailing in court so we can allow eligible individuals to apply for debt relief and, in turn, provide the take-up rate data to our outside auditors,” the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson also quoted KPMG LLP’s report, writing to Campus Reform that “the auditors also wrote: ‘We do not express an opinion on the accompanying consolidated financial statements of the [DOEd] as of and for the year ended September 30, 2022,’ which shows that the auditors’ disclaimer opinion is not an assessment, negative or otherwise, of the Department. It is merely a statement confirming that there was no opinion reached.”
The Committee is skeptical, however, and for many reasons.
Earlier last year, the DOEd faced criticism for closing investigations into donations and gifts from China, which may have exposed foreign influence at America’s colleges and universities. The investigations were relaunched by Rep. Foxx earlier this month.
Additionally, President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, the main cog blocking the audit’s completion, ignited legal criticism of the DOEd by federal judges who deemed the plan unconstitutional.
Despite calls to await a Supreme Court ruling on the plan, the DOEd, under Biden’s direction, pushed for adjustments to the income-driven student loan repayment system that efficiently adopts the debt forgiveness model while subverting Congressional or Supreme Court approval.
Such changes include increasing “the federal poverty limit from 150% to 225%,” widening the pool of individuals who qualify for debt relief, and “[cutting] undergraduate borrowers’ payments from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income.”
The latest news from KPMG, therefore, necessitates further oversight of the DOEd, according to Rep. Foxx.
The Chairwoman told Campus Reform, “The Department of Education should consider hiring an accountant, because taxpayers deserve to know the cost of the checks the President is writing on their behalf.”
“This agency is bleeding hardworking Americans’ wallets dry and appears to be cooking its books in an attempt to hide it. This is unacceptable and utterly dishonest,” she continued. “This is precisely why oversight of runaway agencies is so important, and why I am making it a top priority of this Committee. I will continue to demand answers for taxpayers until this Department gets a handle on its spending and decides to be transparent with the American people.”
As the audit report declares, its goal “is to inform Congress, the President, other external stakeholders, and the American people on how the [DOEd] used the federal resources entrusted to it.”
But, for now, the Committee continues to distrust that the DOEd is handling taxpayer dollars appropriately.
Follow Jared Gould on Twitter