Friday, April 25, 2008

SENATE VOTES IMPROVED PROTECTION FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS

AP Facing a possible White House veto, the Senate has passed a watered-down version of legislation that would protect government watchdogs from political pressure. But Senate lawmakers say the measure, approved unanimously on April 23, still offers strong protection to shield inspectors general from undue influence by the government agencies they are charged with investigating and makes reports and audits more accessible to the public. . . The Bush administration threatened a veto over constitutional concerns it had with the House-passed version.

Under the House measure, inspectors would be appointed to seven-year terms and could only be removed from office for cause, such as neglect of duty, inefficiency, conviction for a felony or other inappropriate conduct. The House version also would require the independent watchdogs to submit their budgets directly to Congress in addition to the White House. . .

The new Senate bill includes no term limits for inspectors and would require the president's budget to include how much money each inspector general requested and the amount recommended by the agency. The disclosure would allow Congress to see whether agencies are trying to hamstring inspectors by restricting budget funds.

It also requires Congress to be notified of any effort to remove an inspector general and establishes a new council to review any allegations of wrongdoing made against inspectors or staff members. . .

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