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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bill aims to enhance inspector generals' independence

Current and former inspectors general on Wednesday supported legislation aimed at strengthening the independence of IGs, while a top administration official defended the performance of an IG oversight group.

The measure (H.R. 928) introduced by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., would update the 1978 Inspector General Act and mirrors similar measures presented over the past five years. The latest version comes amid a wave of recent battles among inspectors general, agency heads and congressional overseers at NASA, the General Services Administration and the Commerce Department.

Under provisions designed to enhance independence from agency heads, the legislation would set renewable seven-year term limits for IGs and stipulate that they could only be removed from office for a list of offenses including malfeasance, neglect of duty and "inefficiency."

The measure would also codify an existing IG oversight group, the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, into a statutorily chartered council and would allow it to submit independent budget requests to supplement those forwarded by agency heads. In addition, it would close a pay loophole under which career employee IGs often are capped at a pay grade below that of their top subordinates, by ensuring that IGs are considered at the level of agency senior staff members.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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