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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

March 14, 2010

SOME THINGS CONGRESS CAN DO TO MAKE GOVERNMENT WORK BETTER

Project on Government Oversight

Pass Whistleblower Protection Law

Frequently the first people to discover corruption and misconduct are federal employees. By seeking to fix the problems they uncover, these employees play a vital role in making sure the government is accountable and effective. Unfortunately, whistleblowers are almost always reprimanded, fired, and/or harassed instead of feted, even if they have not "gone public" and even after their allegations are proven to be true. The federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is grossly inadequate in protecting federal workers and government contractors who expose waste, fraud, and abuse from retaliation by their supervisors. Until federal employees can expose wrongdoing without fear of retaliation, they will lack the incentive to report wrongdoing.

Create an Independent Audit Agency


Auditors are on the front lines of rooting out wasteful spending in federal agencies. Experience has shown that increased funding for auditors ultimately results in greater savings for taxpayers, making it essential for these offices to have the funding, independence, staffing, and other resources they need to do their job. Unfortunately, investigations into the General Services Administration, Minerals Management Service at the Department of the Interior, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency have found that auditors lack the independence from their agencies they need to effectively do their jobs. As a result, auditors' findings have been ignored or altered, and in some cases have resulted in retaliation or demotion. Congress should consider establishing an independent federal contract audit agency.

Put the Teeth Back in Financial Regulatory Agencies

In recent months there has been widespread bipartisan agreement about the need to strengthen the nation's financial regulatory agencies in order to prevent future economic crises. In particular, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority have been failing in their missions to protect investors from securities fraud.

Uncover the Hidden Costs of Privatizing Government

Under previous administrations, vast swaths of the federal government have been shifted into the private sector in an effort to reduce the size of the federal government. From 2000 to 2008, the amount of federal money spent on contracting increased by over 150 percent-the majority of which is money spent on service contracts. The great promise that privatizing government would save money by engaging a more "efficient" private sector hasn't materialized. In fact, overzealous outsourcing created numerous concerns about whether the federal government can adequately control its spending and fulfill its mission. Contractors are now protecting embassies in war zones, participating in covert intelligence operations, and creating budgets, public policy, and government programs that are integral to government missions.

End Wasteful Defense Spending

Congress continues to fill the Defense Appropriations bill with pet projects and earmarks for programs the Department of Defense neither wants nor needs, such as the C-17. These earmarks divert money away from more urgent national security priorities. Congress should make sure that Defense Appropriations bills reflect spending based solely upon national security needs instead of parochial interests.

Make Government Watchdog Organizations More Accountable

Inspectors General require an extraordinary degree of independence to effectively perform their duties. But they also need to be held accountable for misconduct and inadequate work performance. In some cases such accountability will necessitate that an IG be removed from his or her post. As demonstrated by recent events, the process of removing an IG can create a considerable chilling effect on the entire Inspector General community when the justification for that removal is not fully transparent.

To ensure that the entire IG community has trust that presidential decisions to remove IGs are motivated by legitimate causes rather than retaliation or politics, Congress should amend the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 to include a provision that would allow the President to remove an Inspector General only for cause. The provision should also require that the President inform Congress in writing of the full justification for the decision.

Drag the Nuclear Complex Out of the Cold War

The people who are running the nuclear weapons complex at the Department of Energy operate as though the Cold War is not over. Congress should prioritize efforts to secure vulnerable fissile material around the world and in the U.S., instead of letting the Administration pour billions of dollars into expanding nuclear bomb-making materials, weapons, and facilities spread across the country. For example, the Administration is continuing to store approximately 250 metric tons of highly-enriched uranium in World War II-era buildings, creating a security risk and requiring billions of dollars for the construction of new facilities and millions of dollars for security.

Disclose Conflicts of Interest in Scientific Research

A few years ago, press reports revealed that a number of researchers at the National Institutes of Health's central facility in Bethesda also served as paid consultants to drug and biotech companies while they were working for the federal government. The serious conflicts of interest these situations caused were resolved by simply abolishing all paid consulting and other types of payments to NIH's intramural scientists by private companies. However, many researchers at the nation's medical schools and universities who receive NIH grants and contracts continue to consult for private companies.

Congress should ensure that the NIH require its grantees to publicly disclose their paid arrangements with pharmaceutical companies, as well as their ownership of relevant stock and stock options, as a condition of having their medical research funded by the government.

Fix the Broken Federal Contracting System

Since 1981, POGO has exposed numerous problems that are the result of so-called procurement or acquisition "reforms," including cozy negotiations, inadequate competition, lack of accountability, little transparency, and risky contracting vehicles that are prone to waste, fraud, and abuse. While there have been some fixes to the federal government's contracting systems, there are many more that must be implemented.


1 Comments:

Blogger Samson said...

They could stop taking bribes.

Interesting how campaign finance reform isn't on the list.

Gee, of course our wonderful congress which just showed it cares much more about the profits of big health corporations than the health of citizens couldn't possibly be bothered by anything that restricts their taking of bribes, uh contributions.

March 15, 2010 1:55 AM  

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