Horowitz Names Top Staffer to Oversee Trump Administration’s Pandemic Response

April 27, 2020 Updated: April 27, 2020

The top watchdog at the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday that a new executive director has been named to the panel that oversees the Trump administration’s pandemic response efforts.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz appointed Robert Westbrooks as executive director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), a new federal entity set up under the CARES Act, the COVID-19 relief bill.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on March 27, and with it established PRAC to “conduct and support oversight” of the federal government’s response to the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year. The virus has spread aggressively across the world, with a Johns Hopkins tally noting over 3 million infections and more than 209,000 deaths, with the true figures likely higher due to asymptomatic cases, lack of testing, and the Chinese regime’s suspected undercount.

Westbrooks, a veteran inspector general, will coordinate oversight of the $2.4 trillion in federal funds earmarked for efforts to contain the economic and social fallout from the pandemic.

“I look forward to working with the entire oversight community—federal, state, and local—to coordinate and conduct independent oversight over these critically important emergency relief programs, and help ensure that funds are used effectively and efficiently and major program risks are addressed,” Westbrooks said in a statement.

Horowitz was required by law, as explained by the Congressional Research Service in a note (pdf), to name a PRAC executive director by April 26, and will have to nominate a deputy executive director by June 25.

The top job on the PRAC panel, that of chairperson, remains vacant. Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine served as PRAC chairperson until he was removed from his Defense Department (DOD) post, making him ineligible to continue to serve as head of the pandemic response panel. The DOD inspector general’s office has also confirmed that Fine is no longer the PRAC chairperson, according to the Congressional note. In the meantime, Horowitz is serving as the acting chairperson of PRAC.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform praised Westbrooks’ appointment.

“As a former Inspector General, accountant, and auditor, Mr. Westbrooks will help the committee conduct strong oversight that is urgently needed,” committee members said in a statement. “Americans across the political spectrum want the trillions of dollars being spent in response to the coronavirus crisis to be used effectively and efficiently—without waste, fraud, abuse, or profiteering.”

The pandemic response panel has also launched several platforms, including a Twitter profile and a website, to inform the public about its work.

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