The U.S. Senate late yesterday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that will improve efficiency and accountability within the federal government by strengthening the nation’s system of inspectors general (IG). The Inspector General Reform Act of 2007 (S. 2324) – introduced by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) – will build upon the strong tradition of inspectors general by guaranteeing that qualified individuals are appointed as IGs, that they remain independent of pressure or influence from the government agencies they investigate, and all IG reports and audits are easily accessible to the public.

“If we’re not looking for ways to cut down on government waste, we aren’t doing our job here in Congress. This bill is key to preserving the IGs’ role as government watchdogs and making sure they can do their job of rooting out waste in this country,” Senator McCaskill said.

“Inspectors General are vital partners in Congress’s effort to identify inefficient, ineffective, and improper government programs. The investigations and reports of IGs throughout the government help Congress shape legislation and oversight activities – improving government performance, providing important transparency into programs, and giving Americans better value for their tax dollar,” said Senator Collins. “The Inspector General Reform Act of 2007 would improve the independence and effectiveness of Inspectors General and contribute to better relations among the IGs, the agencies they serve, and the Congress.”

“This bill is good government legislation at its best. It will strengthen the role of inspectors general as an independent investigative force, making sure that taxpayers’ dollars are spent efficiently and effectively while also guaranteeing that IGs themselves be held accountable,” said Senator Lieberman.

Specifically, the Inspector General Reform Act of 2007 will require that:

• Congress is notified of any proposed removal of an IG, along with the reasons for the removal, in writing with 30-days notice.

• All IGs must have their own legal counsel or access to the services of legal counsel of another Inspector General. This will allow them to avoid using agency counsels.

• A Council on Integrity and Efficiency for Inspectors General must be established. Within the Council, an Integrity Committee must be created to receive, review, and refer for investigation allegations of wrongdoing that are made against Inspectors General or certain other staff members.

• All IG websites are directly accessible from the home page of agency web sites. All IG reports must be posted on agency websites within 3 working days of release.

• In the event of a vacancy, the Council for Integrity and Efficiency recommends to the appointing authority possible replacements.

• The president’s budget submission must state how much money is requested for each IG office, as well as the funding level the IG requested for their office. This will allow Congress to identify whether agencies are trying to interfere with the work of an IG office by cutting funding.

• No IG may accept a bonus.

• Presidentially-appointed IGs must be paid at Level III of the Executive Schedule, plus three percent, and other IGs must receive compensation comparable to other senior level executives in the department. This is aimed at preventing agencies from discouraging qualified candidates by lowering pay.

Similar IG reform legislation has passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, 404-11.