By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Senate yesterday confirmed a New York prosecutor as the chief watchdog of the $700 billion financial bailout program, giving him monitoring responsibility over a plan that has come under increasing criticism for lack of oversight.
Neil M. Barofsky becomes the special inspector general for the program after nearly half of the money has been allocated and as lawmakers continue to decry the Bush administration's implementation of the plan. The Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, said last week that plans are inadequate to enforce executive compensation limits and safeguards against conflict of interest.
"Obviously this will be an extraordinary challenge," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. "Mr. Barofsky will have to play catch-up and work ferociously in order to account for the $310 billion that has already been spent, while properly supervising the rest of the relief, but I believe that he is up to the task."
President Bush nominated Barofsky last month, but the confirmation was held up after a senator anonymously used a procedural maneuver to block his approval. That opposition was lifted last week, and the Senate confirmed Barofsky without a formal vote.
Barofsky, who declined to comment, has served as the head of the mortgage fraud unit for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan and prosecuted multibillion-dollar accounting frauds and South American drug lords. His first report to Congress is due within 60 days.