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Government Oversight

Q: What does an IG do?

A: In simple terms, IGs are responsible for overseeing and fostering good program management that identifies, solves, and prevents problems. IGs view themselves as "agents of positive change." Their specific responsibilities are to:

  • Conduct and supervise independent and objective audits, investigations, and other reviews to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.

    Each year, the Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) issue thousands of reports, memoranda, or other information on their work at individual agencies or on joint efforts with other OIGs. This information is summarized in the individual OIG's semiannual reports and the IG community's Annual Progress Report to the President.

    For example, an OIG conducted a special expedited review of the controls and procedures used to prevent the entry of foot and mouth disease via imported meat after reports about the outbreak surfaced in Europe and South America. To protect the American public, they found that communications and other actions needed to be quickly improved across several government agencies for identification, tracking, and distribution of imported products that could be contaminated.

    The IG community has grouped the individual agency management challenges into broad government-wide issues that include Information Technology, Performance and Results, Financial Management, Human Capital, Procurement and Grant Management, Physical and Information Infrastructure, and Public Service, Health and Safety.

    The IGs have also identified other government-wide projects that warrant increased attention and review such as credit card use, improper payments, and Social Security Numbers misuse. Through these projects, the IG community offers guidance for improving agency systems or processes. For example, an IG committee issued a Practical Guide for Reviewing Government Purchase Card Programs to federal agencies and others to improve their credit card operations and activities.

  • Prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse.

    In addition to ongoing reviews and investigations in each agency, recently a special focus for several IGs has been on coordinating with the Department of Justice, FBI, and State agencies to combat health care fraud. As a result of these collaborative efforts, more than $3 billion has been returned to the Federal government through fines and penalties and thousands of individuals and entities have been excluded from participating in federally sponsored health care programs.

    The IG community estimates that an average of $11 billion in savings per year is being realized through systemic and program improvements.

    After September 11, 2001, OIGs put increased emphasis on work directed to combating terrorist activities. For example, at the 2002 Winter Olympics, several OIGs along with other law enforcement organizations investigated security issues related to the use of false social security numbers by airport employees. Through this collaborative effort, 69 individuals were indicted for SSN misuse or other immigration charges.

  • Review existing and proposed legislation and regulations.

    This function helps agencies improve or enhance program integrity. For example, during 2001 the OIG community provided extensive input to development of the fraud recovery audit legislation that eventually was enacted into law. This law requires agencies with contracting authority in excess of $500 million to perform recovery audits to identify any overpayments to vendors providing goods and services to the Government. Congress included the provisions sought by the OIGs regarding authority and oversight responsibilities, fraud detection and reporting, and collection of recovered funds.

  • Keep agency heads and the Congress fully and currently informed.

    OIGs keep agency heads informed of their activities through periodic meetings, reports, oral briefings and letters. Semiannual reports on IG activities are provided to the agency head, who forwards the reports, along with any comments, to congressional committees with agency oversight responsibilities. OIGs also provide Congressional testimony on their work. The IG community consolidates its annual activities and submits an Annual Progress Report to the President as required by Executive Order.


Information from the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency

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