Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins joined a bipartisan group, led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Gary Peters (D-MI), in introducing the Securing Inspector General Independence Act, legislation to strengthen a 2008 inspector general (IG) protection law that has been routinely flouted by successive administrations from both political parties.
“Inspectors General are vital partners in Congress’ efforts to identify inefficient or ineffective government programs and to root out fraud and other wrongdoing,” said Senator Collins. “In 2008, I coauthored The Inspector General Reform Act with former Senators Claire McCaskill and Joe Lieberman that strengthened the IG system. This legislation we are introducing clarifies and builds upon that law and will help ensure that IGs remain independent from inappropriate influence or pressure from the government agencies they oversee.”
Though the Constitution establishes the President’s authority to manage executive branch employees, the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an IG to prevent politically-motivated terminations. However, less than a year after it was enacted, President Obama fired AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin without providing sufficient details as Congress had intended under the law, prompting Senator Collins and bipartisan members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to push for more answers. A court later ruled that the administration wasn’t required to provide additional reasons prior to removing an IG – a case cited by the Trump Administration when it initially refused to provide details following the removal of Intelligence Community IG Michael Atkinson and State Department IG Steve Linick.
The Securing Inspector General Independence Act clarifies the 2008 law by requiring any administration to provide a “substantive rationale, including detailed and case-specific reasons” prior to removing an IG. It also limits the use of administrative leave for IGs, including during the 30 days following the removal announcement. Both presidents Obama and Trump used administrative leave to effectively sideline IGs during the 30-day period. To ensure the independence of the IG community, the bill requires acting IGs to be selected from among senior-level employees within the watchdog community. To protect the integrity of investigations and audits during an IG transition, the bill requires regular training to IG employees on their whistleblower rights.
Last year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling on former President Trump to provide a detailed written explanation for his decision to remove an inspector general.
The bill is endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center, Government Accountability Project, the Partnership for Public Service and the Senior Executive Association. The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) was consulted during the bill’s development.
In addition to Senator Collins, the bipartisan legislation was cosponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Click HERE to read a summary of the bill’s provisions.
Click HERE for the full text of the bill.