Oversight Committee Held Hearing on Reforms to Enhance Government Transparency and Accountability

May 3, 2021
Press Release

Washington D.C. (May 3, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing to evaluate legislative reforms to enhance accountability and transparency, improve efficiency, combat waste and fraud, and build public trust in the federal government.

 

At the hearing, the Committee heard testimony from James-Christian Blockwood, Executive Vice President at the Partnership for Public Service; Elizabeth Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy at the Project on Government Oversight; Rudy Mehrbani, Senior Advisor at the Democracy Fund; and Zack Smith, Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

 

Witnesses and Members agreed that strengthening whistleblower protections is a critical step to ensure that individuals who provide information on government corruption and wrongdoing do not face retaliation.

 

  • Regarding The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act, Ms. Hempowicz testified:  “This bill—I couldn’t encourage the Congress to pass it more.  It addresses some of the biggest loopholes and most consequential loopholes in our whistleblower laws today.”
  • At the start of the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney announced she is leading a group of bipartisan Members in reintroducing The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act of 2021 to strengthen protections for federal employees who expose wrongdoing. 

Mr. Blockwood recognized that comprehensive and timely information on senior government officials is necessary to improve transparency and enable the American public to know who is making decisions on their behalf.

 

  • Regarding H.R. 2043, the Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act (PLUM Act), which would modernize the Plum Book, Mr. Blockwood testified:  “The Plum Book, as I stated earlier, is grossly outdated at times and is not reflecting the most accurate information.  We need to fix it with providing real time information, fixing errors that we already know to be inaccurate and making it a readily accessible and more downloadable and machine readable format.”
  • Mr. Blockwood also testified:  “A fundamental part of accountability is transparency, so if the American public does not know who is filling a position it makes it hard to know who is making decisions on their behalf and who can hold them accountable.”

Rep. Porter called for Republicans to support what has historically been a bipartisan issue to ensure the transparency and accountability of acting officials.

  • Regarding the Accountability for Acting Officials Act, which would enact needed updates to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Rep. Porter said:  “We’ve talked about how this issue of making sure we have qualified officials is a bipartisan one, both because it’s about making sure government is effective, guarding against taxpayer dollars, protecting the constitutional say of Congress. And it’s always historically been bipartisan.  But as I prepare to reintroduce the Accountability for Acting Officials Act tomorrow, I still have yet to find a Republican to co-lead the bill.  It’s frustrating and it’s disappointing, and I invite any of the Republicans participating in today’s hearing to co-lead this bill with me.”

Witnesses and Members discussed how Congress must increase the independence of Inspectors General (IGs), provide enhanced authorities for IGs, and protect them from any political retaliation so they can effectively expose waste, fraud, and abuse in government. 

  • In response to a question from Rep. Cori Bush, Ms. Hempowicz explained that the inability of IGs to compel testimony “completely undermines their ability to conduct fulsome investigations.” 
  • Regarding H.R. 2089, the IG Subpoena Authority Act, which would grant testimonial subpoena authority to IGs, Ms. Hempowicz testified:  “It’s not just former government employees who have left service that are left out of Inspectors General, their jurisdiction because of the lack of this testimonial subpoena authority.  They’re also limited when they are reaching out, asking questions of government contractors and subcontractors.”  She then stated:  “I think this limit to IG authority should be concerning to Members of both sides of the aisle.”

 

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117th Congress