Peters & Portman Lead Members of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to Encourage Administration to Fill Watchdog Vacancies

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led several of their committee colleagues to encourage President Biden to swiftly fill Inspectors General (IG) vacancies to help safeguard taxpayer dollars and strengthen independent oversight of federal agencies. The letter emphasizes the importance of Senate-confirmed IGs to Congress’ oversight efforts and notes Senate-confirmed IGs are likely to be more independent than those in acting roles.

“As the members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, we have a duty to conduct oversight of executive branch agencies. Integral to that oversight is the work of inspectors general to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued: “There is no substitute for the steadying effect of Senate-confirmed leadership. Although many acting inspectors general have admirably performed their watchdog responsibilities, the lack of a confirmed leader threatens to impede the ability of these offices to conduct the oversight and investigations necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected, public safety risks are identified, and that whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse are protected.”

IG vacancies are a long-standing issue in the federal government. There are currently thirteen vacancies of presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed IGs. Ten of these vacancies have existed for over a year. Today’s letter represents a bipartisan commitment from committee members to ensure government works efficiently and effectively by strengthening independent oversight of federal agencies.

Along with Peters and Portman, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).

Text of the letter is copied below and available here.

 

May 10, 2021

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to take swift action to address the vacant inspector general positions in the federal government and nominate qualified individuals to these positions.  As members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, we have a duty to conduct oversight of executive branch agencies.  Integral to that oversight is the work of inspectors general to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs.

There are currently 13 vacant presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed, inspector general positions.  These include the inspectors general for the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education; and the Intelligence Community; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Export-Import Bank; the Federal Communications Commission; the Office of Personnel Management; and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  An additional vacancy exists at the International Trade Commission—an agency-appointed inspector general. Ten of these positions have been vacant for over a year and four positions have been vacant for more than five years.

There is no substitute for the steadying effect of Senate-confirmed leadership.  Although many acting inspectors general have admirably performed their watchdog responsibilities, the lack of a confirmed leader threatens to impede the ability of these offices to conduct the oversight and investigations necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected, public safety risks are identified, and that whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse are protected.  In addition, the lack of a confirmed inspector general can create the potential for conflicts of interest and diminish the essential independence of inspectors general.

Inspectors general have a dual reporting responsibility—both to the head of their respective agency and to Congress.  Agency heads rely on inspectors general to ensure their agencies are effectively carrying out their duties and serving the American people.  Congress relies on inspectors general to report on notable activity and concerning actions at their respective agencies, and also provide invaluable testimony to Congress on various matters.  This ensures Congress maintains operative and reliable insight into agency actions.

As you continue to submit nominations for your administration, we respectfully request that you prioritize nominating inspectors general to fill those vacancies.  We stand ready to work with you and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to identify and confirm qualified and capable candidates for these positions.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

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