HOUSE OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON COOPER GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
June 21, 2007
H.R. 928 provides independence, strengthens inspector general watchdog role
WASHINGTON - A House Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper that would give new independence to inspectors general throughout federal government. Inspectors general, or IGs, serve as presidentially-appointed or executive-level watchdogs at a host of federal agencies.
Cooper's bill, the Improving Government Accountability Act, strengthens the IG position by establishing seven-year terms for IGs and granting them new budgetary independence. It also sets out specific grounds for their removal. The bill aims to insulate IGs from political interference, allowing them to perform their invaluable watchdog role.
"When a presidentially-appointed IG can be removed for any reason, when an agency-appointed IG can be removed for any reason, that really gives you slender comfort," Cooper said during the hearing. "We've tried to come to a reasonable compromise between differing points of view."
At the capacity-crowd hearing, current and former IGs from various agencies, including the Defense Department, the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testified about the importance of maintaining independence for agency watchdogs. Calling service as an IG "among the greatest honors of public trust that government has to offer," former Transportation Department IG Kenneth M. Mead praised Cooper's bill as a balanced attempt to update the IG system without overhauling it. Members of the subcommittee from both parties called Cooper's bill a good framework to move through the legislative process.
Cooper, for his part, said agency watchdogs were among the most important members of federal government. "With recent scandals at the Justice Department, Interior Department and NASA, the crucial role of inspectors general in policing the federal government is clearer than ever," he said. "By acting to keep these watchdogs honest and independent, Congress can show that we take our oversight role seriously."