Towns: Committee will perform strong oversight
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the new chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told an audience of lobbyists and policy-makers today he will fight against fraud and wasteful spending.
“Let me be clear: We will provide vigorous oversight,” Towns said at a conference sponsored by FTI Consulting and Dittus Communications. “Congressional oversight won’t go away because the administration and Congress are now run by the same party.”
Towns said he has already started to improve transparency. On Jan. 8, the House passed two pieces of legislation he authored to enhance public access to presidential records. He said he hopes to have both bills on President-elect Barack Obama’s desk soon after the inauguration.
“Everyone talks about improving efficiency,” Towns said. “There is no quick fix, but the first step is more transparency for government programs and to stop sweeping problems under the rug.”
Towns has served on the committee for 26 years and said he is looking forward to making government more understandable and approachable in his role as chairman. He said he discusses new proposals and current events with his constituents in Brooklyn, N.Y. — sometimes after church services in what he called his Sunday morning test.
One of his top priorities will be oversight of federal contractors, including passing legislation to bar tax-delinquent contractors from receiving more federal work, he said.
“Procurement and contracting reform will be on the front burner for the committee,” Towns said. “The practice of poor performers and tax deadbeats getting a new contract has to be stopped.”
He said he also intends to expand the online availability of data on contractors’ conduct and misconduct.
Towns said he plans to monitor federal bailouts and financial fraud and promote health care reform, biomedical research, national broadband initiatives and cybersecurity efforts. He also hopes to ensure an accurate census in 2010 and strengthen the role of federal inspectors general.
Towns promised to hold hearings related to current events, if he sees a need.
“The headlines and bloggers will help us determine what we will get involved in,” Towns said. “I advise you to read the paper because [some of] our actions will be dictated by current events.”
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.