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Bush signs government watchdog legislation

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WASHINGTON —  President Bush signed legislation on Tuesday giving government watchdogs greater freedom and better protection from political interference.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who first introduced inspector general reform legislation in 2003, praised Congress for passing the measure with unanimous votes in both the House and Senate.

"Inspectors general are our first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse in government, and in recent years they've been working overtime," Cooper said after Congress passed the measure in late September. "This reform bill restores integrity to government by holding inspectors general accountable and giving them the independence to do their jobs."

He said that among other things, the reform act that Bush signed requires that:

_Congress is notified 30 days before an inspector general is removed and given reasons for the removal.

_Inspectors general have access to independent legal counsel so they can avoid potential conflicts of interest with in-house counsels in the agencies they are overseeing.

_Inspectors general appointments be non-political and based on the integrity and skills of the individual in such areas as financial analysis, law and investigative work.

The 1978 Inspector General Act created independent offices in executive departments and agencies to supervise audits and investigate waste and fraud. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in a report that in 2006 alone, inspector general offices identified $9.9 billion in potential savings from audit recommendations and $6.8 billion from investigative recoveries.

But the report also listed several recent incidents, including Democratic allegations that the State Department inspector general interfered with investigations to protect the department and the White House from political embarrassment; and that NASA's inspector general penalized his own investigators for pursuing cases possibly involving theft, safety violations and other wrongdoing.

The report detailed other instances where the watchdogs have been pressured by agency leaders to drop investigations.


On the Net:

Information on the bill, H.R. 928, can be found at

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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