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Friday, April 06, 2007

IGs face more work as Democrats increase oversight

For government auditors, there’s new competition in town.

And it’s Congress.

Until January, inspectors general offices and Congress’ Government Accountability Office were effectively the only independent overseers of executive branch agencies in recent years, Ken Gold, director of Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, said April 4 during a panel discussion at the Excellence in Government Conference. But these officials now have company from committee chairs with pent-up desire to investigate the Bush administration, he said.

Gold said cuts in the mid-1990s to congressional committee staffs and new fund-raising requirements on members mean Congress may struggle to sustain a high level of oversight. Nevertheless, the Democratic-run Congress has altered life for IGs, who as executive branch appointees are required to report to Congress and who have already had to straddle “a barbed-wire fence,” between the two branches, he said.

CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, speaking at the panel discussion, said the new Congress has sharply increased requests for his testimony and for reports prepared by his office.

Helgerson also said that in recent years, requests from both Congress and the Office of Management and Budget have steadily reduced his time for reviews initiated at his own discretion. Congress sometimes legislates that inspector general offices review certain programs, while OMB has asked IGs to play a bigger role in annual reports on areas like data security and financial audits.

- Daniel Friedman, Federal Times.com

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