Washington D.C. (Apr. 20, 2021)—Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a hybrid hearing to examine the importance of objective and impartial inspectors general (IGs), ways to strengthen their independence, and the tools they need to provide effective oversight of both their agencies and themselves.
“For more than 40 years, inspectors general have provided independent and objective oversight of federal government operations. Offices of the inspectors general conduct audits, inspections, evaluations, and investigations to strengthen program integrity, promote operational economy and efficiency, and root out fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement across government. IGs are accountable to the President, to their agencies, to this Congress, and – as stewards of taxpayer dollars – to the American people,” said Chairman Connolly. “Independent oversight by the IGs is essential to maintaining accountability and transparency in government. That independence was, during the previous Administration, under constant attack. We cannot allow this to happen again.”
The Committee heard testimony from Allison C. Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation and Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency; Kathy A. Buller, Inspector General of the Peace Corps and Executive Chair, Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Legislation Committee; Clark Ervin
Former Inspector General of the Departments of Homeland Security and State; Liz Hempowicz
Director of Public Policy at the Project on Government Oversight; and Mia M. Forgy Deputy Inspector General of U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Congress must seek solutions to ensure that inspectors general positions are filled timely with individuals who have the capabilities and fortitude to uphold the ideals of the position and must shield these independent, non-partisan watchdogs from political interference.
- Inspector General Allison Lerner testified: “Any action that would make the work of an Inspector General appear to be politically motivated goes to the heart of what an OIG is there for. IGs are meant to be appointed without regard to political affiliation and to conduct their work independently and in a nonpartisan fashion. And it is entirely in opposition to everything we hold dear to inject politics into the leadership decisions of the office.”
IGs should have the tools and resources they need to perform thorough and independent oversight, and then hold them accountable for using these tools effectively.
- Inspector General Kathy Buller testified: “Inspectors General are operating amid a worldwide pandemic, overseeing some of the most expensive government spending bills in history. Despite 15 vacant Inspector General positions at some of the largest and most consequential agencies within government, Inspectors General and their staff are working diligently to provide accountability and ensure integrity of government processes.”
- Former Inspector General Clark Ervin testified that the “assault on the Inspector General community over the course of the last few years underscores and highlights the urgent need to amend the IG statute to further empower Inspectors General to do the job that Congress intended them to do and to further protect them from reprisals for doing so.”
To empower the IGs’ mission to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, and gross mismanagement, Congress must continue to expand whistleblower rights and protections against retaliation.
- Liz Hempowicz testified: “The work of IGs has continually resulted in substantial financial savings for the federal government. For example, the self-reported return on investment in fiscal year 2020 was $17 for every $1 spent on IG activities. That is not to say that the system has reached its full potential. Especially at a time when the public is gravely concerned about government corruption, it is critical that these watchdogs have the resources, independence, and accountability they need to root out all forms of corruption in our government.”
Immediately after the hearing, Chairman Connolly introduced the bipartisan Integrity Committee Transparency Act with Ranking Member Jody Hice, Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Subcommittee Vice Chair Katie Porter, and all Subcommittee Democrats.
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