WASHINGTON, D.C. – A provision led by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to provide Inspectors General with additional protections has passed the Senate as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The provision, which is based on legislation that Peters and Portman championed in the Senate, will strengthen independent oversight of the federal government’s effectiveness. The legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Inspectors General must be given the appropriate tools to work independently to conduct oversight of the federal government and prevent and uncover fraud, waste, and abuse,” said Senator Peters. “These long overdue reforms will ensure federal watchdogs can operate without political interference and continue their vital work to save taxpayer dollars and hold government accountable.”
“Inspectors General are essential to good government. Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight of the executive branch and that responsibility would be far more difficult without Inspectors General. That’s why I’m pleased the Senate has passed our bipartisan IG Independence and Empowerment Act as a part of the FY 2023 defense bill which will bolster protections, enhance authorities, and provide transparency for Inspectors General,” said Senator Portman. “This legislation will strengthen the 2008 IG protection law that has been routinely flouted by successive administrations from both political parties, increase transparency, and require presidents to provide substantive rationale for the removal of IGs.”
The bipartisan provision strengthens the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act by requiring any administration to provide a “substantive rationale, including detailed and case-specific reasons” prior to removing an Inspector General (IG). It also prevents the President from placing an IG on administrative leave during the 30 days preceding removal. To ensure the independence of the IG community, the provision requires acting IGs to be selected from among senior-level employees within the watchdog community. To protect the integrity of investigations and audits during an IG transition, the reforms require that within 15 days of the removal of an IG, the acting IG must report to Congress information regarding work being conducted by the office as of the date on which the IG was removed.
Last year, Peters and Portman convened a hearing with federal inspectors general to discuss the urgent need for these bipartisan reforms and to examine the importance of providing federal watchdogs with protections to strengthen independent oversight of the government’s effectiveness.