Legislation would Strengthen Congressional Oversight and the Public’s Ability to Evaluate Online How Federal Agencies are Tackling Problems 

In 2017, Inspectors General Found over $20 Billion in Potential Taxpayer Savings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) today announced that their bipartisan bill to hold federal agencies accountable to act on recommendations that save taxpayer money and make government more efficient passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Their legislation would require all open recommendations from inspectors general (IG) at federal agencies that have remained unimplemented for more than a year to be posted to a single, searchable website. Congress and the public could then better monitor the problems that have been identified at the federal agencies where IGs conduct audits to combat waste, fraud, and abuse – and identify whether steps have been taken to resolve those problems. 

“The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to have inspectors general review and analyze federal programs. Yet, it can be difficult to track and monitor a federal agency’s efforts to resolve issues identified by inspector general recommendations,” said Heitkamp. “Our bipartisan bill would make it easier to hold agencies accountable and pressure them into addressing recommendations that will help eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse in our federal government. Taxpayers deserve the ability to understand how their dollars are being used and how federal agencies are improving their operations, and today’s progress means we are one step closer to providing the improved ability to track open recommendations in a straightforward and transparent manner.”

“This is an important step toward holding our federal agencies accountable and working to eliminate waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Ernst. “I’m pleased to see the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs pass this bipartisan effort, and hope the Senate will act quickly so we can implement these commonsense practices to ensure transparency across our government agencies and support their efforts to enact critical Inspectors General recommendations.”

Heitkamp and Ernst introduced this legislation in November following the October launch of Oversight.gov—a federal website that hosts thousands of IG reports. The launch responded to Heitkamp’s repeated calls for greater transparency and accountability across federal agencies – including in bipartisan legislation she introduced last year that would have required IGs to post unimplemented recommendations on their websites.

IGs serve as federal watchdogs within government agencies that investigate and provide recommendations on how agencies can improve operations and address fraud, waste, and abuse.  IGs cover a wide variety of issues ranging from cybersecurity issues and grant administration to federal hiring practices and human management practices. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, the IGs identified in their recommendations over $20 billion in potential taxpayer savings.

Heitkamp and Ernst, along with U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK), have been consistently working with the IG community on the implementation of this bill to help improve transparency and accountability across the federal government. As members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2015, Heitkamp, Lankford and Ernst held a subcommittee hearing  on how federal departments and agencies implement recommendations from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the offices of inspectors general. Before the introduction of this legislation, Heitkamp met with U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to discuss ways to improve Congressional oversight of his agency’s recommendations.