Sen. Grassley “Taking Names” on Red Cross’s Reported Lack of Cooperation with GAO

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Sen-Grassley

Chuck Grassley / Gage Skidmore

September 28, 2015; NPR, “The Two-Way”

The questions various entities have raised about the accountability and transparency of the American Red Cross have spawned a number of NPQ newswires. The most recent of them discussed an investigation just completed by the Government Accountability Office, which found the organization needed additional regular federal oversight on performance measures. However, there appears to be some sense that the Red Cross may not have fully cooperated with the audit.

Citing the fact that the “Red Cross is a federal instrumentality created by congressional charter,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office on Monday, September 28th, requesting the names of anyone who was less than cooperative with that investigation. Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that committee “has received additional information that Red Cross personnel did not provide unfettered access to the GAO even after multiple requests for relevant information.” He also asked for a list of the documents requested by the GAO that the Red Cross refused to produce, any communications written by the Red Cross that cite the reasons for their being withheld, and “a list of all the officials that did provide the material GAO requested.”

A statement from the Red Cross from August says the agency “worked cooperatively with the GAO to address their questions, provide interviews with disaster services leadership, and share documents about our programs. We had discussions with the GAO and members of Congress about the purpose and intent of the GAO study so we could respond in a way that would meet their goals.”

According to this report, this is not the first time that the organization’s reticence has popped up as an issue:

The Red Cross’ problems with the GAO inquiry date to at least last summer when Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern wrote a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi who requested the inquiry, and asked him to “end the GAO inquiry,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by NPR and ProPublica. McGovern gave the congressman her private cellphone number and asked that he not communicate with her in writing. Thompson called the request “unbelievable.”

Thompson, of course, has introduced a bill which calls for regular outside audits of the Red Cross and requires the agency to open its books during GAO inquiries.—Ruth McCambridge