Federal Oversight

Congress to consider updating the authorities of agency watchdogs

Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee plan to take a closer look at the relationship between agency leadership and inspectors general as part of a possible effort to update the authority those watchdogs have to investigate waste, fraud and abuse, according to letters sent by committee leadership to 23 agency heads March 31.

“As part of the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s jurisdiction over federal inspectors general, we are writing to request information on your agency’s policies and procedures for interacting with inspectors general and cooperating with inspector general investigations,” Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., James Comer, R-Tenn., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Jody Hice, R-Ga., wrote in the letters.

Agency heads are required to submit all documents related to policies and procedures for cooperating with IGs and documents that cover “whether investigations into employee or official misconduct or disciplinary matters are conducted by the inspector general, by an internal affairs office, office of professional responsibility or similar office within the agency, and/or by another entity” by April 14.

The information provided by agency heads will be used to assist the committee members in considering legislation that would update IG authorities initially established by the e Inspector General Act of 1978.

The request and potential for new legislation comes less than a year after the Trump administration drew bipartisan outcry over then-President Donald Trump’s decision to dismiss five inspectors general over the course of two months.

Inspectors general are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and the president still retains the authority to remove an IG at any time, though they must send a written rationale for the removal to Congress.

There are currently 14 IG vacancies across government agencies, with many of the positions left unfilled for over a year. Four such positions — the Office of Personnel Management IG, the Department of Defense IG, the CIA IG and the Export-Import Bank IG — have been without confirmed officials since before the start of the Trump administration.

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