Federal agencies should work together to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, “rather than see taxpayer money squandered and report on it after the fact,” an especially pertinent concern at present, a posting by the Partnership for Public Service says.
“Their work has been critical during surges of federal spending, including major disaster relief, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and reconstruction efforts, the 2008-2009 financial rescue and stimulus, and now the more than $2 trillion response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it says. “Each of these crises brought an urgent need for funds to protect the public’s health and safety and also significantly raised the risk of waste, as well as fraudsters preying on federal funds.”
One of the virus relief bills created an interagency IG group called the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee along with a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to oversee some $2.4 trillion that has been approved in economic relief to individuals, loans for businesses, support for hospitals and other medical providers, and economic relief for impacted industries.
The Partnership added that “for IGs to fulfill their roles successfully, they must be able work without interference from agency leaders” and makes recommendations to Congress including: changing the length of service from an indefinite term to a renewable one that spans changes of administrations, with removal allowed only for inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office; require that only the deputy IG, a senior official from that IG office or a senior officer within the broader IG community can become the acting IG when a position opens; and using the appropriations process to withhold funds from agencies that refuse to provide information or otherwise cooperate with IG investigations.
Congress as recently as 2016 strengthened IG authority to access agency records, it noted, following problems that arose during the Obama administration.
During the Trump administration concerns have focused on criticism from the White House of IGs, some dismissals and the higher number of those positions being filled on only an acting basis—currently 13, four of which have been in that status for four years or more.