The recent enactment of the IG Empowerment Act has led to immediate improvements in access by IG auditors and investigators to agency records, although the IG community still faces challenges in carrying out its work, a House hearing was told.

The law made clear that only an explicit act of Congress can limit an IG’s right of access to information, among other changes sought by IGs who in recent years became increasingly vocal about agency management’s lack of cooperation. For example, in the Peace Corps, the law opened access to the agency’s sexual assault risk reduction and response program, Kathy Buller, that agency’s IG, told the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The law further “ensured that our computer matching activities will be performed more efficiently, independent from potential undue burdens or restrictions by agencies,” said Buller, who leads the legislation committee of the IG council.

Meanwhile, Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz, who heads the overall council, raised concern about the potential impact of the Trump administration’s general federal hiring freeze.

“As careful stewards of taxpayer money, we fully appreciate and respect the importance of carefully and appropriately allocating federal resources. However, given our track record of returning to the federal treasury far more money than we are budgeted, the increasing responsibilities being placed on us through legislation, and our important role in public safety and national security matters, we believe careful consideration should be given before impacting our main resource – namely our personnel – that enables us to root out waste, fraud, and abuse,” he said.

He said that even before the freeze, understaffing left many IG offices struggling to handle the number of complaints brought to them by whistleblowers.