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- The Word On -

Government Oversight

July 29, 2009
Traer Star-Clipper

By

Senator Charles Grassley

Q: Why is performing government oversight so important?

A: As a U.S. Senator, I work to make sure that laws are written in the best interest of Iowans and the entire country. The executive branch carries out those laws, and Congress has a duty to conduct oversight of how those laws are executed. It's my strong view that Congress doesn't do enough oversight, especially considering the growing authority it gives year after year to the federal bureaucracy. Congressional oversight work isn't glamorous and Congress not only has a right to conduct oversight, but it has a responsibility to do so. One senator working alone can make a difference, compared to it taking 50 to 60 senators working in unison to pass legislation. I've rooted out mismanagement, fraud and wasteful spending by federal government over the years with aggressive oversight. People expect the government to handle their money responsibly and I routinely hear from angry constituents at my town hall meetings about runaway spending. I share the outrage. It's also easier for those who defraud the government to do so when government spending is high. Taxpayers are all the more vulnerable, and the FBI director testified in March that the surge in stimulus-related funding will cause fraud to "skyrocket." Taxpayers need a watchdog on their side, and along with my oversight work, I'm urging the President to fully utilize inspectors general (known as IGs), which are the government's first line of defense and most valuable weapons in the fight against fraud, waste and abuse.

Q: Why are inspectors general important to rooting out fraud?

A: I first realized the importance of inspectors general (IGs) about 25 years ago while I was conducting oversight of the Reagan administration's defense budget. With the IGs help, abuses at the Pentagon such as spending $750 on toilet seats and $695 on ashtrays were brought to light. Currently, there are nearly 70 IGs providing audit and investigative oversight throughout the federal government. IGs need independence from political pressure to provide the public with the transparency and accountability they deserve. Some within government agencies have tried to turn IGs into lap dogs to preserve their fraudulent interests. Those that defraud the government generally treat IGs like a skunk at a picnic. They throw roadblocks in front of their every step of their investigations within the agency to make the IG either afraid or unwilling to ask tough questions and expose problems. An IG without independence from the agency its investigating is as useful to Congress as a cup of warm spit. Recently, there have been claims that President Obama's administration is undermining IG independence, illustrated by the firing of Gerald Walpin, the IG for AmeriCorps, a federal program that sponsors volunteerism, for reporting waste. Whether or not this is true, it signals from the White House that IGs can be fired for shining the light on the waste of a pet project. That message could cause a chilling effect on IG work. President Obama campaigned on making the federal government more transparent and accountable and I look forward to helping him in that area. President Obama should start with sending a clear message to IGs that he'll back them up for aggressively rooting out waste, fraud and abuse at any and all government agencies so taxpayers aren't defrauded.

 
 

 

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