Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) has proposed a restructuring idea to move the 73 federal Inspectors General out from their agencies and into their own independent agency. She thinks this proposal would make the IG community an extension of Congress and the Government Accountability Office.
“If I were king of the world and could change this, I would make you an independent agency collectively, with assignments to various agencies, and accountable to Congress,” she said at a Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).
According to the Project on Government Oversight, 13 agencies don’t have a confirmed, permanent IG, and more than 10 of those have been without a permanent IG for over a year. “It doesn’t do much to talk about IG’s when you have 13 vacancies right now,” Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said. “Let’s get a process so we know, regardless of administration, we have IG’s in every agency.”
“The IG’s are the last appointed in administration after administration,” Paul Light, a public policy professor at NYU said. “The main management positions are always late. So, part of the issue is, how do you get administrations to pay attention to the internal operations?”
Johnson said he supports limiting the number of president-appointed, Senate-confirmed positions to expedite the confirmation of IG’s.
“I think we have far too many confirmable positions in the Senate,” he said. “Any president ought to have the right to staff his administration with people that agree with his views. I would have maybe a couple hundred confirmable positions, not the thousand-plus positions that currently require Senate confirmation.”
Heitkamp said moving IG’s out from under the agencies they serve would give them more independence they need to conduct investigations.