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Inspectors General Receive Much-Needed Attention in Senate

Inspectors General (IGs) would gain crucial funding for an expanded force and greater investigative capacity if the Senate’s budget were to become law, thanks to an amendment attached to the bill Friday night. An important element of the government’s accountability structure, IGs oversee an agency’s use of taxpayer dollars in order to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal agencies. Despite reports that potential savings reflect about a $35 return on every $1 invested in the IGs, sequester threatens to cut the IG budget by over $100 million in 2013. The Senate’s proposed budget would help combat some of the tough cuts forced by sequester. The Project On Government Oversight has been working for years to support and strengthen the role of these internal watchdogs.

Stretching from Friday afternoon through the early hours of Saturday, the Senate was locked in what is referred to as “vote-a-rama” on the Hill. During this lengthy legislative meeting, there were 101 amendments offered to the Senate’s proposed budget (S.Con.Res.8). The amendment to empower IGs (amendment 149) was offered by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) based on her draft legislation to do the same. The amendment was approved and is supported by POGO.

Exciting provisions of this amendment include:

  • Increased follow-up on IG investigations: new reporting requirements for tracking responses to and actions taken in response to IG recommendations should boost effectiveness
  • Expansion of the IG force: additional personnel and training for IGs is provided for
  • Recommendation of new permanent IGs: the amendment urges the President to appoint IGs to agencies with current vacancies
  • Encouragement of other accountability measures: calls for government contractors to increase the capacity of IGs

The new reporting requirements to follow Inspectors General investigations is of particular importance to POGO, as a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report released earlier this month revealed that nearly 17,000 IG recommendations are not being fully implemented. $67 billion could be saved if all of these recommendations were implemented. Filling vacant IG positions is another long-overdue provision since, as POGO has highlighted, several offices have sat vacant for years. Because the Senate budget is not likely to become law, Senator Shaheen is also introducing her amendment as a stand-alone bill known as the Government Contractor Accountability Act. We are pleased to see such a champion for good government in Senator Shaheen and to see movement on these issues in the Senate. POGO hopes Congress will enact these reforms and support the other government watchdogs, such as the very effective Office of Special Counsel. These internal watchdogs play a critical role that can pay dividends to taxpayers as they improve the workings of our government.