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Senator seeks review of 'cash for clunkers' effort

Grassley says program's fast turnaround created an “environment ripe for waste, fraud and abuse.”

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wants to know how the money to get the $3 billion "cash for clunkers" program up and running was spent.

Citing a quick timetable that required the Transportation Department to start issuing rebate checks to consumers only a month after the program was signed into law over the summer, Grassley said Tuesday such haste could make waste.

"It seems to me that the administration chose an inherently risky approach to developing and implementing the Cash for Clunkers program and spent millions to get it up and running in record time with little regard for proper oversight and accountability, thus creating an environment ripe for waste, fraud and abuse," Grassley wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Under the law, enacted in June and amended to add another $2 billion when the money ran out in early August, vehicle owners could get rebate checks for trading in older gas guzzlers to help defray the cost of buying new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Grassley asked LaHood for an accounting, no later than Jan. 25, of what companies and executive branch agencies received contracts from the Transportation Department to process and sign the thousands of checks that went out under the program.

Grassley said contractors could include Citibank, Arlington, Va.-based consulting firm Vangent Inc., and information technology provider Affiliated Computer Services, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration's Oklahoma City office and the Internal Revenue Service. Grassley also asked LaHood for information about vulnerabilities in the program's administration, particularly with regard to its information technology system, and what the agency was doing to address them.