The Inspector General Act: 40 Years Later

Beyond the Numbers

Date: 
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Posted by: 
The Communications Division

(President Carter signing the Inspector General Act in 1978. Photo from CIGIE.)

When President Jimmy Carter signed the Inspector General Act of 1978, the law established 12 independent IGs within Federal agencies to conduct agency oversight and promote program integrity. At the time, he remarked that the new statutory IGs were “perhaps the most important new tools in the fight against fraud.”

Forty years later, President Carter’s words hold true. The IG community remains a robust tool in the fight against government fraud, waste, abuse, and mismangement. Today, there are 73 Federal IGs, and there are approximately 14,000 IG employees working to oversee Federal programs and operations across the country.

The IG community has contributed to billions of dollars in potential agency savings, conducted complex investigations leading to criminal prosecutions, and authored recommendations producing significant government reforms.

Origin and Mission 

In the 1970s, after a series of scandals in Federal programs and several Congressional hearings exposed fraud and waste in executive agencies, Congress crafted the IG Act.

Statutory IGs were created as independent and objective units within each agency to combat fraud, waste, and abuse. The IGs were charged with conducting audits and investigations, providing leadership and coordination, and recommending policy to prevent and to detect fraud and abuse.

40 Years of Growth

The 12 original inspectors general were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The coordinating body for the statutory IGs was the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, established by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

In 1988, an amendment to the IG Act created additional IGs at designated agencies. The designated agency IGs have essentially the same duties, however, they are appointed by their agency head. Four years later, President George H.W. Bush established the Executive Council on Integrity and Efficiency for the agency appointed IGs.

The mission for both councils was to identify, review, and discuss fraud vulnerabilities, reduce fraud and waste, and develop plans for coordinated activities to promote economy and efficiency in Federal programs.      

Each council provided direction and oversight individually, until a decade ago, when President George W. Bush enacted the IG Reform Act of 2008. The law established the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) as the unified council of all statutory and agency-appointed IGs. CIGIE’s mission is to address integrity, economy and effectiveness in government agencies, and to enhance the professional development of the IG community and to aid in maintaining its highly-skilled workforce.

More recently, the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016 included several provisions designed to support IG oversight efforts. The law affirmed IG access to agency information and data to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, and it streamlined the process for IGs to match data across agencies.

Transparent Reporting 

All IGs are required to provide full and current reports on agency challenges and deficiencies to Congress and its agency head. The IGs submit semiannual reports to Congress outlining the prior six months of activity; issue audit reports and recommendations; and perform independent investigations of allegations. 

Most IG reports—including the Semiannual Report to Congress, and reports of audits and investigations—are made available to the public on the organization’s website. In 2017, CIGIE created Oversight.gov, a publicly accessible, searchable website containing the latest public reports from most Federal IGs.

IG Act Anniversary Commemoration

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the IG Act, CIGIE is hosting a series of nationwide events highlighting the work of Federal IGs.

On October 12, 2018, 40 years to the day of the law’s enactment, CIGIE will host a panel discussion on the historical impact of the inspectors general at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Georgia, in a nod of recognition to the law’s chief signatory.