Budget

McCaskill sounds alarms over proposed IG budget cuts

By Orhan Cam Royalty-free stock photo ID: 546416560 United States Capitol Building in Washington DC USA 

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security committee is calling foul on budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration to a number of inspector general offices throughout the federal government.

In a report released Aug. 15, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) found that the administration proposed a total of $63.4 million in budget cuts to seven IG offices at five departments (Homeland Security, Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, State and Treasury).

Three departments (DHS, Treasury and USDA) are set to receive overall budget increases while slashing funding for their inspectors general.

The report, compiled by Democratic staff on the Senate Homeland Security committee, said another six IG offices saw their budgets stagnate or fail to keep pace with overall funding increases for the departments they oversee.

"Cutting the budgets of independent watchdogs is deeply troubling and hinders the effort to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately," said McCaskill in a statement accompanying the report. "Inspectors General contribute to the important job of curbing waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies, so it's unconscionable that we would cut their budgets and decrease accountability, especially as we're potentially increasing the budgets of some of the very same agencies they're supposed to oversee."

According to a 2016 annual report by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, IG offices with a total combined budget of $2.7 billion collectively saved the federal government $45 billion, or approximately $17 dollars in greater efficiency and reduced waste, fraud and abuse for every $1 in their total combined budgets.

McCaskill's report also said the administration failed to follow the 2008 IG Reform Act by not submitting initial budget requests for 16 of 27 federal agencies in its FY 2019 budget.

Other watchdog organizations outside of government have also pointed out similar problems. A July report by the non-profit government Project on Government Oversight cited long-term vacancies and resource constraints – particularly a lack of adequate funding – as two of the main obstacles impeding federal IGs from conducting effective and consistent oversight. In some cases, the need to boost reporting metrics to Congress that impact future funding levels can skew how an IG office prioritizes its work and whether it goes after high- or low-impact problems.

"In many cases, if an IG's office can't monetize an issue, the office will often turn a blind eye to it, turn against the whistleblowers who brought it to their attention, or turn the issue over to law enforcement as a criminal matter in order to boost the office's referral metrics,"  principal authors Peter Tyler and Rebecca Jones wrote.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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