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New Report: IGs and Improving Oversight

Washington, D.C.– How well do independence and oversight work together in the role of inspectors general? A new Bipartisan Policy Center report recommends improving the lines of communication between the 73 independent inspectors general (IGs) and the agencies they oversee and Congress.

In the report, Oversight Matters: What’s Next for Inspectors General, the BPC Task Force on Oversight and Inspectors General recommends rethinking the IG-agency relationship so that the inspector general has a seat at the table during agency management meetings so that problems can be caught and fixed early.

“While the national news focuses on high profile IG investigations, most IGs perform their work out of the limelight. Congress created IGs not just as watchdogs, but also to assist agencies in better accomplishing their missions,” said Ed DeSeve, a BPC task force member and former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official. “Constructive working relationships with agency management do not require IGs to compromise their independence.”

The task force also recommends that congressional committees take more opportunities to highlight recommendations from IGs during hearings and public forums and include open recommendations from the IGs in their oversight plans for each Congress.

“Congress often doesn’t pay attention to the IGs’ work until major scandals capture the public’s attention,” said Denise Wilson, a BPC task force member and former White House official. “A better way to improve government is to build out more frequent opportunities for IGs to share their work with Congress and for Congress to follow up on IG recommendations.”

Forty years after the IG Act created inspectors general is an opportune moment to review this very important oversight role and make adjustments for greater effectiveness.

“Inspector general oversight has made the federal government more efficient and effective. Inspectors general are conscientious about the actions they take and the public resources they expend on behalf of the American people,” said Robert Shea, a BPC task force member and former OMB official.

Additional task force recommendations include:

  • For IGs to better address government-wide challenges that cross agency lines, Congress should allocate dedicated funding to the coordinating council of IGs (CIGIE).
  • High number of vacant IG positions should be filled by the administration as quickly as practicable to ensure executive branch accountability.
  • Congress should review and streamline mandatory reporting requirements for IGs in order to increase their oversight capacity.
  • The IG community should develop protocols governing interactions with Congress to improve communication and bolster their independence.