McCaskill Report Documents Inadequate Funding for Independent Government Watchdogs in Administration Budget

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today released a report documenting the Administration’s proposed funding cuts in the upcoming fiscal year for Inspectors General (IGs)—nonpartisan and independent watchdogs who play a vital role in uncovering and preventing waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies. The report showed cuts to IG budgets at several agencies—including some where the Administration slashed IG funding even as proposed spending at those agencies increased overall, causing concern among IGs that they would not have enough resources to conduct proper oversight.

“Cutting the budgets of independent watchdogs is deeply troubling and hinders the effort to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “Inspectors General contribute to the important job of curbing waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies, so it’s unconscionable that we would cut their budgets and decrease accountability, especially as we’re potentially increasing the budgets of some of the very same agencies they’re supposed to oversee.”

In Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16), IGs across the federal government collectively identified $17 in savings for every $1 spent on IG operations. McCaskill’s new report compared the Administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) to actual funding levels in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) and examined comments from IGs detailing their concerns about how the President’s budget proposal would harm oversight. At the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Treasury, the IG’s funding is cut while the overall agency budget is increased.

Commenting on the President’s FY19 budget proposal, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) IG wrote, “Substantially reducing the budget of DHS OIG [Office of Inspector General] while increasing the budget and activities of DHS, critically impairs the DHS OIG’s ability to carry out its statutory oversight responsibilities.”

The report’s key findings include:

·        The President’s FY19 budget proposes substantial cuts to IG funding at five agencies, including three agencies where the budget simultaneously proposes to increase the department’s total budget. Several IGs described the severe negative impacts these cuts would have if implemented. 

·      At an additional six agencies, the budgets of IGs do not keep pace with the proposed budget increases for their agency—resulting in a relative reduction in resources for the IG. Some of these IGs expressed concern that the proposed FY19 budget levels would negatively impact their work.

·      At least nine IGs of the 27 examined for the report had their initial funding request lowered during the FY19 budget process. The President’s budget did not include an initial funding request for an additional 16 IGs, despite requirements in the IG Reform Act that the budget submission for each agency include the IG’s initial budget estimate.

READ THE REPORT: Undermining Independent Oversight: The President’s FY 2019 Budget does not adequately support federal Inspectors General

McCaskill has long been an advocate for Inspectors General at federal agencies. In 2016, she led efforts to pass the bipartisan Inspector General Empowerment Act, which further empowered each agency’s Inspector General to conduct oversight targeting waste, fraud, and abuse. Earlier this year, she called for answers after a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report highlighted problems with the agency’s program to penalize contractors that engaged in waste, fraud, or abuse on previous projects. She also voted to support the President’s nominee for Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. During her first term in the Senate, McCaskill successfully called for the resignation of the NASA Inspector General following reports of ineffective audit records, retaliation against whistleblowers, and other inappropriate actions. 

From her time serving as Missouri State Auditor to leading the Senate’s top oversight committee, increasing government transparency and accountability more broadly has also been a priority for McCaskill. The non-partisan organization GovTrack has ranked her as the top Senator for government transparency. Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill led by McCaskill and Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that reauthorizes and expands the authority of the Office of Special Counsel, which is in charge of whistleblower protections. Her bipartisan bill that extends whistleblower protections to federal employees who refuse to break federal rules or regulations even when they’re directed to by a supervisor was signed into law by President Trump.