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House Considers Bill Aimed at Curbing Agency Waste

Ed O'Keefe reports that the House is expected to consider a bill today that would require each House committee hold at least three hearings each year on the topic of waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies and departments.

Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), who has proposed similar measures in the past, wants committees to hold at least one hearing every four months about potential cases of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the agencies under a panel's jurisdiction. The bill also requires committees to hold at least one additional hearing per year if a federal government agency's auditors issue disclaimers in that agency's financial report. Finally, the committees would have to hold at least one more hearing over the course of each two-year House session if a program's inspector general or the U.S. comptroller general lists it at "high risk" for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.

"I've always thought that the Congress as a separate and independent branch of the government should exercise oversight over the administration, given the fact that Congress authorizes and appropriates the money," Tanner said in an interview.

"This is a systematic approach to periodically look at where we are. That's the value with this. You could do without it, of course, but this puts it into the rules with a systemic approach, which I think is good."

"We believe that having such a systematic approach to oversight enshrined in the Rules of the House would greatly enhance Congressional oversight of executive agencies' programs and functions," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, in a letter supporting the bill.

"Inspectors General have no enforcement powers," Brian also wrote. "They cannot force an agency to do anything. If an agency will not fix a broken program, then it is up to Congress to force them to do so."

But others think that Tanner's proposals are unnecessary, since congressional committees hold dozens, sometimes hundreds of meetings each year, with several focused on oversight matters. By one estimate, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its subcommittees held more than 100 hearings last year alone on waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.

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By Paul Volpe  |  January 14, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Branch vs. Branch  
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