Bill would create statutory IG for GAO

A bill that has passed the House and Senate would create an inspector general’s office at the Government Accountability Office. GAO has an IG created by administrative policy, but the new legislation would enshrine the office into law.

The bill, H.R. 5683, includes other reforms for GAO.

The Inspector General Act of 1978 created the first few statutory IGs, a number that has grown to 64 as Congress has amended the act over the years, according to the government’s IGnet.gov Web site. Other agencies have administrative IGs.

“Creating a statutory IG invests the individual with explicit authority that is not based on who is occupying the comptroller general’s office and provides some consistency in authority and responsibility,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. For example, any IG can report to Congress on the agency’s performance, but statutory ones have an explicit authority and duty to do so.

On the other hand, he added, GAO already had an IG performing the duties, and few government entities are under more scrutiny for independence — from inside and outside the government — than GAO is.

According to the bill, the comptroller general would choose the IG. The IG would be responsible for auditing GAO’s activities and providing reports on fraud, abuses and other problems the audits reveal.

Beverley Lumpkin, an investigator at the Project on Government Oversight, said making the post statutory provides greater independence because administrative IGs might, for example, feel more loyalty to their agency leaders than to Congress and the public.

“Not being statutory, the GAO IG is not independent of his agency in any way,” she said. “IGs are dual-hatted. They report to both the agency chief and the Congress, and that keeps them independent.”

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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