Time to give inspectors general the independence and tools they need to fight corruption
Executive branch agencies have never liked having inspectors general looking over their bureaucratic shoulders to make sure they are spending taxpayer money wisely, and operating efficiently.
That’s why agencies, and presidents, have looked for ways to either defang the inspectors general, or make them into lap dogs (when not actively ignoring them). Congress, finally, may be doing something to stop this behavior and give IG’s some real independence –a bill that would both protect IGs from political interference, and give them powers they’ve long lacked to conduct more thorough investigations of corruption and abuse:
Specifically, the bill––which would amend the 1978 Inspector General Act––would do the following:
Only allow IGs to be removed for cause;
Require a president to notify Congress before an IG is put on non-duty status;
Require only current IGs or senior IG staff to serve as acting IGs;
Add information the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency must include in its reports to Congress and make more of its information available to Congress;
Give IGs the authority to subpoena witnesses who aren’t current government employees (such as those who previously served in government);
Allow the Justice Department IG to investigate misconduct by the department’s attorneys instead of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility;
Expand whistleblower training for employees in IG offices and IGs themselves;
Require notifications to Congress and CIGIE about an IG’s ongoing investigations when an IG is put on non-duty status;
Give CIGIE a single appropriation; and,
Require IGs to alert Congress if agencies deny their access to information requested.
Many of these provisions are from bills previously introduced during the 116th Congress. This bill was introduced ahead of a hearing on April 20 about restoring independence to IGs, during which experts and IGs stressed the need for many of these reforms.
Inspectors general were created as a check on the Big Three issues: waste, fraud, and abuse. IGs have never been given the full powers – or independence – necessary to overcome both politics and bureaucratic intransigence. Now is the time to change that, and to make a clear stand for accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.