Groups call for strengthening of federal inspector general system

The U.S. Capitol is seen from the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., on Friday, September 24, 2021.
Greg Nash

More than 20 groups are calling on senators to strengthen the U.S.’s federal inspector general system by passing a series of bills that are being considered in Congress.

The groups, led by The Project On Government Oversight, penned a letter on Tuesday to Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, requesting that the panel “expeditiously advance[s] legislation that would bolster the independence of inspectors general.”

“As a coalition of organizations representing a diverse range of ideological viewpoints, we strongly encourage the committee to expeditiously advance legislation that ensures inspectors general are afforded the independence and authority necessary to do their jobs effectively and with the highest ethical standards,” the letter, first reported by Politico, reads.

The letter comes after the House in June passed a bill, largely along party lines with Democrats in support, that would strengthen the authority and independence of inspectors general that conduct oversight of federal agencies.

The legislation indicates that inspectors general can only be removed if there is cause, and would grant them authority to subpoena testimony from witnesses who are not working as government employees. It also called for requiring that inspectors general notify Congress if agencies decline to give access to seek out information.

The bill has not yet been taken up in the Senate.

On Wednesday, however, three bills that aim to reform the inspector general system are set to be marked up, according to Politico.

In the letter, the groups called for reforms that ensure there is congressional oversight over a president’s decision to remove a federal inspector general, and that the president is required to communicate adequate reasons as to why they are removing an inspector general — while giving lawmakers an opportunity to say if the move is appropriate and warranted.

The groups also expressed support that would give inspectors general tools needed to “fully investigate wrongdoing or malfeasance in their affiliated federal agencies,” and backed reforms that would ensure that inspectors general are held accountable for any wrongdoing they may commit.

“Reforming the inspectors general system is a critical step toward fighting corruption and increasing public trust in our government,” the letter reads.

The groups, in making their requests for reforms, endorsed the Securing Inspector General Independence Act, the IG Testimonial Subpoena Authority Act and the IG Independence and Empowerment Act.

The focus on legislation bolstering the inspector general community comes a year after former President Trump dismissed or replaced inspectors general for five agencies in the span of roughly six weeks, which raised concerns among Democrats that the moves were motivated by a desire for retaliation because of oversight the individuals had over his administration.

The Hill has reached out to Peters and Portman for comment.

Tags Donald Trump Gary Peters Rob Portman

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