Missouri legislators are rightly seeking a committee to oversee the spending of about $5.4 billion in federal funds to battle COVID-19.
Missouri News Networks recently reported the funds were allocated to Missouri counties through the American Rescue Plan of 2021.
It reported the Committee on Local Recovery Accountability and Transparency's primary function would be preventing fraud, waste and abuse on federal stimulus spending that is allocated directly toward political subdivisions in the state.
It would consist of five members: one from the House, one from the Senate, the state auditor, state treasurer and state budget director.
The committee would review contracts/expenses related to local governments' spending of the federal funds. Local governments would use a submission form to provide the information.
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, questioned the need for the commission since such oversight already is under the purview of the State Auditor's Office.
But we would argue that the sheer amount of money warrants the additional layer of oversight.
The relief package, approved by Congress in March, would distribute $1.9 trillion nationwide to counteract the economic impact of COVID-19 in the U.S., Missouri News Network reported. Missouri, it said, is expected to get more than $5.4 billion, including $1.19 billion for counties and almost $2.9 billion in state fiscal relief.
Some lawmakers also expressed concern that the committee would not be bipartisan, containing more Republicans than Democrats.
But the committee's work wouldn't preclude the Auditor's Office from its own probe into the spending, and the state auditor is a Democrat.
Our federal government has spent an unprecedented amount of money on the pandemic. Seeking accountability for that spending only makes sense.