NTU, R Street Endorse Bipartisan Senate Bill to Bolster Inspectors General

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Dear Senators Grassley and Peters:

On behalf of National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and R Street Institute, we write to thank you for introducing S. 587, the Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021.[1] This legislation would help protect and enhance the federal inspectors general (IG) system that safeguards taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.

IGs have played a critical role in federal oversight since the passage of the Inspector General Act of 1978, and in that time have come under political fire from both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations.[2] Fortunately, thanks to leaders like yourselves, IGs have typically enjoyed bipartisan support even when investigating and reporting politically inconvenient truths in the sprawling executive branch.

Unfortunately, IG protections have not kept pace with the scale and scope of both political and policy challenges facing the federal government. Congress has approved more spending in the past year than in any year prior due to the COVID-19 pandemic,[3] and in recent years IGs have faced unique and significant challenges to their ability to conduct their work in a politically independent and even-handed manner.[4]

The Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021 would enhance IG protections by:

  • Requiring Presidents to report, in a timely manner, more information to Congress than under current law when an IG is removed from their post or placed on non-duty status;
  • Ensuring that, in most cases, any vacancies for an IG position are filled by a first assistant to the IG who is qualified for the position; and
  • Requiring enhanced education in IG offices for how employees should handle whistleblower complaints that are internal to an Office of Inspector General.

We especially appreciate that these provisions would also apply to the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), who will play a critical role in overseeing the disbursement of trillions of dollars in federal spending to respond to COVID-19. With concerning stories of fraud in the enhanced unemployment insurance (UI) system[5] and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP),[6] more government oversight is sorely needed and it is needed immediately.

In short, thank you for introducing the Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021. NTU and R Street are pleased to endorse this bill, and we look forward to working with you and your colleagues to ensure enhanced IG protections are enacted into law this year.

Sincerely,

Andrew Lautz; Director of Federal Policy; National Taxpayers Union

Jonathan Bydlak; Director, Governance; Resident Senior Fellow; R Street Institute

CC:      The Honorable Rob Portman

            The Honorable Tom Carper

            The Honorable James Lankford

            The Honorable Maggie Hassan

            The Honorable Mitt Romney

            The Honorable Jon Tester

            The Honorable Susan Collins

            The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

            The Honorable Roger Wicker

            The Honorable Kyrsten Sinema

            The Honorable Joni Ernst

            The Honorable Mark Warner

 

[1] Congress.gov. (Introduced March 4, 2021). “S.587 - Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021.” Retrieved from: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/587/ (Accessed May 18, 2021.)

[2] For more on the history of the IG Act and political interference with IGs, see: Hempowicz, Liz. “Strengthening Government Watchdogs.” Project on Government Oversight, April 20, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.pogo.org/testimony/2021/04/strengthening-government-watchdogs/ (Accessed May 18, 2021.)

[3] Konkel, Frank. “Federal Government Blows Past Record Spending in Fiscal 2020.” NextGov, October 19, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2020/10/federal-government-blows-past-record-spending-fiscal-2020/169358/ (Accessed May 18, 2021.)

[4] Kirby, Jen. “Trump’s purge of inspectors general, explained.” Vox, May 28, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/2020/5/28/21265799/inspectors-general-trump-linick-atkinson (Accessed May 18, 2021.)

[5] Iacurci, Greg. “Scammers have taken $36 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments from American workers.” CNBC, January 5, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/05/scammers-have-taken-36-billion-in-fraudulent-unemployment-payments-.html (Accessed May 18, 2021.)

[6] Gregg, Aaron. “Justice Department charges 57 people attempting to steal $175 million in coronavirus relief funds.” The Washington Post, September 10, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/10/ppp-fraud-charges/ (Accessed May 18, 2021.)