Please see bottom of story for an update
Between 2011 and 2015, the Obama administration paid nearly $1 billion into health care funds of the United Mine Workers of America, including tens of millions of dollars to unverified and sometimes dubious beneficiaries and undocumented union administrative expenses, according to a U.S. government audit.
The former administration also paid expenses that should have been covered by coal mine operators, the audit concludes.
At times, when the government bureaucrats who made the payments asked for information about questionable costs, they were refused by union officials who told them the data “was not within [their] purview,” the document asserts.
Overall, the audit, published late last month by the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Department of the Interior, recommends that the government agency involved in passing on the money “resolve” issues surrounding some $58.8 million, including $22 million apparently still sitting in union coffers. But it also points to many millions more in murky transactions and inaction that it deemed beyond its capacity to question.
The report also charges that the federal agency’s “minimal oversight” has been “ineffective” and has not ensured that UMWA’s Health and Retirement Funds (UMWAF) “managed the federally supported health benefit plans in accordance with regulations and statutes”—that is, in legally acceptable fashion.
For their part, both the government agency—Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and the coal miners union have pushed back strongly against the auditors in the official response to the report, arguing that the overseers have misconstrued the issues and miscalculated the financial numbers.
Among other things, OSMRE says that “the UMWAF has voluntarily provided us with a large amount of information about its enrollment and assignment practices, and said that the auditors’ “statistics and examples” were “incorrect or potentially misleading.”
OSMRE has also argued that Congressional legislation only intended the agency to have a “narrow role” in the process.
Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the auditors told Fox News, “We stand behind our numbers.”
The densely worded audit…