H.R. 2395, Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, as amended

H.R. 2395

Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, as amended

Date
June 21, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 2395, the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, as amended, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on May 18, 2015, by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which ordered the bill reported, on May 19, 2015 by voice vote.

 

Bill Summary

H.R. 2395 strengthens the Inspector General community’s ability to identify fraud within the agencies they oversee. Specifically, the bill amends the Inspector General Act of 1978 to clarify that it is the intent of Congress for Inspectors General (IGs) to have complete access to the information and materials they need to identify waste, fraud, and abuse at the agency they oversee.  H.R. 2395 expands the subpoena authority for IGs to allow for the issuance of testimonial subpoenas, including to federal government contractors and former federal employees.  Further, H.R. 2395 exempts IGs  from the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act and the Paperwork Reduction Act to enhance the ability of IGs to identify and prevent improper or fraudulent payments and better facilitate efficient oversight. Finally, the legislation contains provisions that expediate investigations by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Integrity Committee, and requires the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency and the Government Accountability Office to issues reports concerning ongoing investigations and prolonged vacancies.

Background

The Inspector General Act of 1978 (Act) established the Inspectors General to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness within Executive Branch departments and agencies. Each IG makes recommendations to their respective agency based on independent and objective audits, evaluations, and investigations. The Act broadly empowers IGs to undertake whatever investigations or reports they consider “necessary and desirable,” and states IGs shall “have access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other material available to the applicable establishment which related to programs and operations with respect to which that Inspector General has responsibilities under this Act.”[1]

In July 2015, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued an opinion that attempted to limit IGs’ authority to access certain information, including grand jury materials. H.R. 2395 strengthens existing law to counter the OLC opinion, making clear that IGs are entitled to all the information they need to pursue an investigation, including grand jury and wiretap information.

According to the Committee, 47 IGs have expressed concern over “serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General.” Through extensive oversight, the Committee determined expanded testimonial subpoena authority and the ability to obtain and match readily available information across Executive Branch agencies would be beneficial. A lack of voluntary cooperation from government contractors and former federal employees may lead to incomplete audits or closed investigations. [2]

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[1] See House Report 114-210 at 2.
[2] Id.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates implementing H.R. 2395 would cost $2 million over the 2016-2020 period, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. CBO estimates enacting H.R. 2395 could affect direct spending by some agencies because they are authorized to use receipts from the sale of goods, fees, and other collections to cover their operating costs, therefore pay-as-you-go procedures apply.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.