Congress has Given Up Oversight

Oversight is a Congressional responsibility to root out corruption and assure that government programs and appropriations are carried out effectively, efficiently, ethically, and legally. Congress relinquished its oversight role in the mid 1990’s.

Oversight involves:

  1. Authorizing government activities and programs;

  2. Making budgets and handling appropriations for those programs;

  3. Monitoring the proper execution of these programs;

  4. And, when needed, investigating to assess, enforce and sometimes punish any person or agency that fails or steals.

In 1995 the House, the Republicans were determined to slash the Federal budget by 3% and the Congressional operating budget by 30%. To do so, they virtually eliminated staff for oversight. Prior to this time, Congress had a large number of staff and bureaucrats on loan (detailees) handling oversight. After the budget cuts, Congress has essentially stopped oversight.

As a personal example, I served in the Department of the Interior in the Reagan Administration responsible for regulations on coal mine reclamation. To oversee the proper execution of our directives from Congress, Rep. Mike Synar assigned a staffer, Kathy Seddon, for daily oversight of our activities. She was physically in our offices often and I worked openly and consistently with her. This is how oversight should work.

If congress is going to hand out money to agencies and programs, it must oversee the use of those funds. Further, the chairman of the committee must have the resources to do that oversight.

This power must be re-instated.

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