Oversight Committee Sends Legislation Protecting Independence of Inspectors General to House Floor
Washington D.C. (May 25, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Committee voted favorably to send her bill, the IG Independence and Empowerment Act, to the House floor:
“I am proud that the Committee passed my comprehensive package to ensure that Inspectors General can do their jobs without fear of political retaliation and with all the tools needed to conduct thorough investigations,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “The previous Administration’s efforts to bully, sideline, and fire independent IGs made the urgency of these reforms clear, but this bill contains a number of bipartisan proposals that both Democrats and Republicans on the Committee have supported for many years, regardless of which party controlled Congress and the White House. I look forward to the House passing this bill to enhance the independence and authorities of Inspectors General in order to strengthen their work exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.”
Some of the reforms included in the IG Independence and Empowerment Act include:
Strengthening the Independence of Inspectors General
Chairwoman Maloney’s Inspector General Independence Act would prevent political retaliation by only allowing an Inspector General (IG) to be removed for cause.
- Chairwoman Maloney first introduced these provisions in 2020, following President Trump’s removal of the State Department Inspector General, who had been investigating Secretary Pompeo at the time, and the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who had followed the law in providing a whistleblower complaint to Congress that led to President Trump’s first impeachment.
A provision from Rep. Katie Porter’s Accountability for Acting Officials Act would require that an acting IG be an existing IG for another agency or serving as senior staff in an OIG.
- This reform would prevent “dual-hatting” arrangements where a political official from within an agency is overseeing that agency as the acting IG. This occurred when President Trump named an Acting Department of Transportation Inspector General from within the Department of Transportation and an Acting State Department Inspector General from within the State Department.
Rep. Ted Lieu’s Inspector General Protection Act would require Congress to be notified before an Inspector General is placed on non-duty status.
The bill would also require notification to Congress and CIGIE of an IG’s ongoing investigations when an IG is placed on non-duty status, and would require IGs to notify Congress if agencies deny access to requested information.
Enhancing Authorities for Inspectors General
Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s IG Subpoena Authority Act would grant IGs the authority to subpoena witnesses who are not currently government employees for testimony.
- At a recent hearing before the Committee, the Department of Justice Inspector General explained that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to be interviewed as part of the Inspector General’s investigation of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. Other examples of non-compliance are described in the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s recent report on former Secretary Elaine Chao, Department of Justice (DOJ) IG reports on the Fast and Furious investigation and the investigation of FISA warrants relating to Carter Page and others.
Reps. Deborah Ross and Jamie Raskin’s Inspector General Access Act would provide the DOJ IG the authority to initiate investigations into wrongdoing by Department attorneys instead of deferring to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility.
Improving Transparency and Accountability for Inspectors General
Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Gerald E. Connolly’s Integrity Committee Transparency Act would increase accountability and transparency for the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Integrity Committee.
Chairman Connolly’s Enhanced Whistleblower Engagement Act would expand whistleblower trainings to Office of Inspector General employees.
Rep. Jackie Speier’s provision would require CIGIE to establish minimum standards and best practices training for IGs.
The bill also provides a single appropriation for the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General wrote letters expressing support for the IG Independence and Empowerment Act.
In addition to the IG Independence and Empowerment Act, the Committee also successfully reported out the Preventing a Patronage System Act, Performance Enhancement Reform Act, No CORRUPTION Act, and several postal office renaming bills today.