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Thursday, August 07, 2014

IGs warn of potential threats to all inspectors general

Inspectors general from 47 agencies are backing three fellow auditors from the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps over what they say are limits on access to information put on them by agency senior officials.

In a letter to the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the IGs say auditors from those three agencies recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records.

"In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act," the IGs wrote. "These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner."

In the letter to the oversight committees, the IGs detail their concerns for each of the three agencies.

The IGs asked for members of Congress to provide a strong reaffirmation of the powers granted them under the IG Act.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) released the letter as part of his long-standing support of IG independence.

Congress has sought to empower IGs even more over the last few years. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is drafting a bill to give small agency auditors more power.

At a hearing January before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, three agency IGs &mash; Justice, Peace Corps and the Small Business Administration — told lawmakers that slashed budgets and dwindling staff sizes are hindering their ability to conduct robust oversight.

Additionally, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) wants Congress to give IGs more authority to use computer matching programs to root out waste, fraud and abuse.

IGs as a group last received a boost in 2008 when Congress passed and then- President George W. Bush signed into law the Inspectors General Reform Act.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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