Two important pieces of legislation have passed during the last few days of this tumultuous Congress. The Senate has unanimously approved several provisions proposed by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-ME, and Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-CT, to strengthen oversight, transparency, competition and accountability in the federal acquisition process. These provisions passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009.
We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Senator Claire McCaskill, Chairman Henry Waxman, Chairman, House Oversight and Government Reform and Congressman Carolyn Maloney for their contributions in strengthening the good government contracting provisions in the Defense bill. One provision of particular interest is the creation of a government-wide federal contractor responsibility database. The New York Times has cited POGO’s federal misconduct database as a model for the federal government. We remain hopeful this database will be made accessible to the public in the future.
POGO is also very pleased with final passage of the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008, achieved through unanimous votes in both Houses of Congress last week. Although the final version had to be stripped down somewhat in order to garner the necessary support for passage, we would never let the perfect be the enemy of the good - and this is a very good bill.
Among its important provisions:
- The President must notify both Houses of Congress of his reasons at least 30 days in advance before removing or transferring an IG.
- The pay of all IGs is raised to be in line with that of other senior agency officials; however, IGs will be forbidden to receive any cash bonuses or awards.
- Every IG must obtain legal advice from a counsel either reporting directly to the Inspector General or another Inspector General.
- The establishment of the Council of IGs on Integrity and Efficiency. This provision combines and makes statutory the two existing councils previously set up by executive order to coordinate the activities of IGs.
- The Council on IGs will submit a slate of qualified candidates to the President or agency head when an IG vacancy occurs.
- The law establishes, within the IG Council, an Integrity Committee to handle allegations of wrongdoing aimed at IGs or their top staff.
- More budget transparency is achieved by requiring the
President's budget submission to Congress includes a separate statement of the IG's budget request. Furthermore, if an IG concludes that the President's budget request is inadequate to support the needs of his office, he may include such comments in the package that goes to Capitol Hill.
- The bill further requires a "direct link" on the website of every agency to its IG's webpage. The link must be "obvious and facilitate accessibility" to the IG's site. All public IG reports must be posted within three days of release and must be "searchable and downloadable." There must also be a clear link for individuals to report fraud, waste, and abuse anonymously.
POGO urges the President to sign both of these important bills as soon as possible. They will go a long way to improve efficiency and effectiveness and root out waste, fraud and abuse.