Emphasizes the failures of the Election Assistance Commission Inspector General who ignored repeated calls for investigation into questionable California contract
WASHINGTON – Today, the Government Operations Subcommittee held a hearing on the Federal Offices of Inspector Generals. In his opening statement, Subcommittee on Government Operations Ranking Member Jody Hice (R-Ga.) voiced concerns that the lack of appropriate staffing makes it impossible for inspectors general to serve their purpose.
Hice pointed to the Election Assistance Commission Inspector General, who failed repeatedly to investigate a suspicious contract awarded by the California Secretary of State’s office to a pro-Biden firm to contact voters. Top Republicans on the Oversight and House Administration Committees repeatedly called on then-Inspector General Patricia Layfield to investigate this $35 million contract. Layfield ignored these calls repeatedly, which resulted in the Republicans calling for her resignation. Layfield has since “retired.”
The remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Chairman Connolly, I appreciate your calling this hearing today to examine the roles of and resources available to Inspectors General.
Rooting out waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct is one of the most important jobs of this Committee, and Inspectors General who serve on the front lines with us in this mission.
One of the big concerns I have is the fact that, according to the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency records, of the 76 Inspectors General offices, 18 have fewer than 10 employees. As a result, some of these simply do not have the resources needed to do the job that we, as Congress, expect them to do.
These agencies include the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Farm Credit Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Election Assistance Commission.
These agencies provide hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to individuals, businesses, states, and localities.
And yet, with minimal staffing, they find themselves in a situation where they are incapable of conducting the oversight and the responsibilities that they have on their shoulders.
Here’s just one example of how resource deprived some Inspectors General offices are.
After the retirement of the Inspector General Patricia Layfield, Ms. Mia Forgy is now the only staff member of the Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General. That’s pretty stunning to think we have an Inspector General with only one person there.
In 2020 alone, the Election Assistance Commission provided $825 million in grants, an increase of $445 million from 2019. More than half of this money went out in just 45 days. So we’ve got an enormous amount of money going out and have only one person involved in the whole office—it’s just amazing.
Due to the lack of staffing resources, the EAC Inspector General’s office contracts out the audits of EAC grant programs but they themselves do not have the personnel to review the audits from the third party, so how do you determine whether or not it’s an accurate audit if you can’t look into audit the audit.
Furthermore, when asked to investigate substantiated allegations of an improper contract awarded to a pro-Biden firm by the California Secretary of State’s office to contact voters, former Inspector General Layfield informed Republican members of this Committee that their office did not have the ability to conduct investigations and instead would need to hire a third-party contractor.
So, what is the purpose of the Inspector General if they can’t do their job? And, why do we even have an office at the EAC if they don’t have the ability to do their job?
To make matters worse, the contract had not even been paid out yet, so immediate action by the Inspector General could have prevented millions in taxpayer money from being misspent. But, they did not have the resources or the personnel to deal with the issue at hand.
This is deeply concerning and highlights a serious problem that many small inspectors general offices are facing.
If an Inspectors General office does not have the staffing to conduct investigations into substantiated allegations of wrongdoing, then it does not have the resources to function.
Inspectors General offices should not be pass-throughs for third-party contractors and they themselves still have no no ability to oversee those contractors. It’s nonsense.
I am hopeful my Democrat colleagues can and will stop the repeated attacks on the Trump Administration and focus on ensuring our Inspectors General are able to conduct robust oversight or look for other solutions to ensure that all agencies have a watchdog capable of overseeing agency operations and spending. That’s what it’s all about.
I’m hopeful Mr. Chairman that we can come together and work for those kinds of solutions to a broader problem rather than just use this hearing—and I hope it doesn’t turn into this—for attacks on the Trump Administration.
We have serious issues that need to be addressed and resolved. I hope we’ll be able to move in the spirit of accomplishing that task before us.