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Wow, the FirstBranchForecast was on fire this week (as it is most weeks!), announcing a new bill to protect Inspectors General, talking about the just-released FOIA Advisory Committee’s draft report available for public comment (submit yours via email to firstname.lastname@example.org through June 2), and also highlighting a new CRS report Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress that contextualizes the issues surrounding H.R.736 – Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act. This bill, if passed, would require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to establish and maintain a publicly available online portal containing copies of all congressionally mandated reports — 3500-4000 of them, many of them listed in House Document 116-4 Reports to be made to Congress (this is a document published annually by the Clerk of the House!). This would be a boon to the FDLP as it would fill many of the fugitive gaps in the national collection.
Thanks as always FirstBranchForecast!
Congressionally Mandated Reports was the topic of a new CRS report “on the potential benefits and challenges of reporting requirements,” which also “analyzes a number of statutory reporting requirements enacted during the 115th Congress.” The report also mentions legislation that would improve congressional access to mandated reports, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, saying (as part of a longer analysis): “Establishing a centralized, public repository for congressionally mandated reports may address a number of concerns related to the reporting process.”
Inspectors General are a little known unit within many federal agencies. They were set up in the 1970s to “identify waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government.” Their reports can be found on Oversight.gov as well as the non-governmental website Oversight.garden (there is some duplication between the sites, but the garden also posts some unreleased IG reports). Though IG reports fall within the scope of the FDLP, many of these reports have historically fallen through the cracks — they’re a goldmine of fugitive documents for anyone interested in reporting them to GPO to collect and catalog, but that’s a whole other story.
While these offices normally conduct independent audits and investigations and make recommendations to fix waste, fraud and abuse well below the radar of the public, lately they’ve been in the news as the Trump Administration has fired or sidelined several IGs for highly political reasons — notably including the Intelligence Community IG, the State Department IG, the Acting Transportation Department IG, the Acting Health and Human Services IG, and the Acting Pentagon IG who was chosen to serve as the head of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee created by Congress on March 27, 2020.
The administration’s actions has brought Congress — historically very supportive of IGs — to a boiling point, with a new bill introduced H.R. 6668: Inspectors General Independence Act of 2020 to “amend the Inspector General Act of 1978 to require removal for cause of Inspectors General, and for other purposes.” This is surely an issue which every depository librarian will want to keep an eye on.
To learn more about these little known but important internal watchdogs embedded in many executive agencies, check out this report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) entitled “THE WATCHDOGS AFTER FORTY YEARS: Recommendations for Our Nation’s Federal Inspectors General” (published July 9, 2018). POGO also more recently produced the really informative youtube video below.
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Today, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA.), Chairman of the Oversight and Govt Reform Committee, approved of a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to provide answers to basic questions about the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials. Things are really getting interesting now!
“The Administrationâ€™s claim that Iraq could pose a nuclear threat was at the center of its case for war. Indeed this assertion was key to the decisions of many Members of Congress, including myself, to support the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. It therefore raised enormously serious questions when Congress and the public learned that there were flaws, not just minor ones but serious flaws, with the intelligence underpinning the Administrationâ€™s nuclear case.â€