Federal Watchdogs Bite Back at Agencies That Ignore Them
Policy + Politics

Federal Watchdogs Bite Back at Agencies That Ignore Them

Inspectors General submit a bill to make government agencies pay attention to their audits and act on the recommendations.

The Fiscal Times/iStockphoto

Lawmakers are offering up a bill to reform the way federal auditors conduct their business after growing concerns that the Obama administration has been stonewalling their investigations.

The Inspector General Empowerment Act would give auditors more subpoena authority over federal contractors and former federal workers, as well as strengthening oversight over the watchdogs themselves.

Related: Why the Government Watchdog Needs Watching

“IGs are the watchdogs of taxpayer dollars and this bill will support their critical work in combating waste, fraud, and abuse,” Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement.

The legislation comes on the heels of a letter sent to members of Congress from the Inspector General community, claiming that the Obama administration has blocked many of them from doing their jobs.

In one case, the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general said agency officials within the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board would not provide the documents required for an investigation.

Similarly, the Peace Corps allegedly refused to give its IG records of sexual assaults against its volunteers.

Though under current law IG’s can subpoena agency officials, the new legislation would expand that authority.

Related: Federal Watchdogs Cite Obstruction by Administration

Concerns about some IG’s themselves have also prompted calls for reform. In the last few months, at least three IGs have been accused of wrongdoings.

The Commerce Department’s IG, for example, is being investigated for allegedly protecting his top deputies who intimidated whistleblowers and hired employees based on personal and romantic relationships. Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security’s former deputy auditor was accused of intentionally altering and delaying investigations.

The new bill would provide more oversight to prevent this from happening. One provision would require the IG council to complete ethics reviews of an inspector general within six months. It’s unclear whether the House will take up the bill, but there is a similar measure in the Senate.

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