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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Inspectors general gain prominence with new Congress

Perhaps. Ever since 1978, when Congress passed legislation establishing inspector general positions at dozens of executive branch departments, the job of the nonpartisan watchdog has often been a thankless one, and sometimes controversial. Still, over the years, the number of IG positions has increased steadily: 62 inspectors general now serve at federal departments and agencies.

For decades, IGs have helped reduce waste, ferret out fraud, uncover mismanagement, and save money. But in an administration that gives oversight low priority, Fine and other aggressive IGs have played an especially significant role -- and have garnered attention for it.

One of the key benefits is saving the government money, which was a large part of the rationale behind the 1978 legislation. Under the law, the president appoints and the Senate confirms 29 inspectors general who report to both their agency heads and to Congress. Agency heads appoint the other 33 IGs, who usually report either to them or to agency boards. In 2006, Congress appropriated $1.9 billion for all federal IG operations, up from $1.5 billion in 2002, according to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

According to the council, the IG recommendations in 2006 for management improvements throughout the federal bureaucracy could save the government as much as $9.9 billion. The council also calculated that the government saved an additional $6.8 billion by bringing civil and criminal cases, as well as through voluntary repayments in administrative cases.

-Peter Stone, GovExec.com


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