Tester, Portman seek to empower government watchdogs, save taxpayer dollars

Senators hold hearing to improve oversight, crack down on waste, fraud and abuse

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Rob Portman, leaders of the Senate Subcommittee working to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government, today sought new ways to strengthen government watchdogs and save taxpayer dollars.

“Folks back in Montana are skeptical about the way things work in Washington – and I don’t blame them,” Tester said at today’s subcommittee hearing.  “Without independent voices of oversight, we have no hope of maintaining the public’s trust in government.  We need to empower folks like you to serve as our eyes and ears within government.”

Tester (D-Mont.) and Portman (R-Ohio) invited inspectors general from two federal agencies to testify at today’s hearing.  The officials told the Senators there are still too many gaps in government oversight, but that government watchdogs saved nearly $50 billion in 2012 – providing a $17 return on every dollar.

“Inspectors General and their oversight offices are key as the watchdogs of the federal government,” said Portman at today’s committee hearing. “With the current financial status of the federal government and our now $17 trillion debt, we certainly owe it to our constituents that their tax dollars are being spent in the right way.   The oversight workforce must help ensure that that happens.”

Tester and Portman pushed the officials to say what steps Congress could take to better work with government watchdogs, to make sure oversight officials are getting the resources and access they need to effectively prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and to enhance government transparency and uphold the privacy rights of Americans.

“The need for strong and effective independent oversight over agency operations has never been more important, and complete access to information is a cornerstone of effective independent oversight,” Michael Horowitz, Inspector General for the Department of Justice, told the panel.

Tester and Portman also called the Department of Homeland Security’s chief privacy officer to testify as the Senators seek to make sure agencies prioritize the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.

Tester and Portman became the Chairman and Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Oversight Subcommittee earlier this year.  In addition to strengthening government oversight, they currently working to reform and strengthen the security clearance and background check process.

Video of Tester and Portman’s hearing from today is available online HERE.