U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced legislation to reduce lengthy vacancies in federal offices of inspectors general. The Verifying Agency Conduct and Needs Through Inspectors General Act (VACANT Inspectors General Act) would require the nomination of a person to each Inspector General (IG) position within 210 days of a vacancy, or the authority to fill the job would be transferred to Congress.
"Inspectors General play a valuable role in the oversight of government efficiency and effectiveness. They also investigate allegations of fraud and other illegal activities. IGs enable Congress to improve programs, conduct thorough oversight, and reduce waste of taxpayer dollars. Congress is committed to reducing IG vacancies, and this legislation will encourage this President and future Presidents to make this a priority as well," Boozman said.
"Inspectors Generals are taxpayers' best advocates to fight waste, fraud and abuse throughout the federal government," Shaheen said. "Making sure we have our watchdogs in place is absolutely critical to putting our fiscal house in order and managing the government as efficiently and effectively as possible."
"Inspectors general play an important role in rooting out waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency within the federal government," Ayotte said. "Our bipartisan legislation will help reduce vacancies and ensure that these critical oversight positions are held by well-qualified, experienced individuals."
Recent IG vacancies have extended for years. The nomination for IG of the State Department occurred on June 27, 2013, following a 1,989 day vacancy that began on January 16, 2008, during the previous administration. Vacancies at other cabinet-level agencies stretch back to 2011.
The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 seeks to prevent vacancies that stretch beyond 210 days. The VACANT Inspectors General Act puts teeth behind this law. For vacancies that go 210 days without a nomination, this bill would provide the Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore the authority to appoint an IG based on recommendations from the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and the Council of Inspector Generals for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). A similar process is used to select the non-partisan director of the Congressional Budget Office.
In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court affirmed that Congress has the ability to appoint officials -- such as Inspectors General -- with authorities that are essentially of an investigative and informative nature, such as the power to conduct audits and investigations, issue subpoenas, produce reports, and provide recommendations. Therefore, under the bill, congressionally-appointed IGs would have the same authority as all other IGs, except for the power to make an arrest without a warrant for certain crimes, or to seek and execute warrants for arrest, search, and seizure.