President Joe Biden met Friday with a group of Inspectors General, the watchdogs appointed to oversee various facets of the federal government, to discuss his administration's latest plans for accountability and transparency, especially regarding the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“One thing I’ve learned … is that people expect us to do what they say. And they don’t always get what they expect from elected officials,” Biden told the room, before offering the CARES Act — passed during the Trump administration — as an example of what happens when agency watchdogs are removed.
“You found out an awful lot of people were getting unemployment checks that didn’t deserve unemployment checks…there was a lot of fraud,” Biden said.
Inspectors General are responsible for promoting efficiency and detecting fraud in the agencies they oversee. They’re expected to work hand-in-hand with the leaders of the agencies they’re watching over, but maintain independence.
But, as a December memo from the Office of Budget and Management noted, there have been concerns that agencies “have not consistently provided their IGs with the full cooperation and access to which they are entitled under the law.”
Since taking office, Biden has said that federal oversight is a priority in his administration, particularly after the criticism he leveled at the Trump administration for removing or replacing watchdogs — including those working in intelligence, transportation, defense, health and human services and at the State Department.
On the same day as the president’s meeting with Inspectors General, Biden’s administration released guidance to the heads of federal agencies instructing them on how best to work with watchdogs in implementing last year’s federal infrastructure bill.
The guidance, according to a White House fact sheet, will “ensure that there is minimal fraud, waste, and abuse in the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and projects are delivered on time and on budget by delivering results with accountability, effectiveness, and transparency.”
The 14 page memo includes guidance for planning, managing risk, public reporting, data review, and hiring practices.
”Your work is really essential. It’s all about building trust form the American people,” Biden said. “That we’re going to spend their money well and we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do.”