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Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and 
Procurement, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009: 

Inspectors General: 

Independent Oversight of Financial Regulatory Agencies: 

Statement of Gary L. Kepplinger: 
General Counsel: 


[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss H.R. 885, Improved Financial 
and Commodity Markets Oversight and Accountability Act. As you know, 
this proposed legislation recently referred to your subcommittee is 
intended to enhance the independence of inspectors general (IG) in key 
financial regulatory agencies including the Board of Governors of the 
Federal Reserve System, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the 
National Credit Union Administration, the Pension Benefit Guaranty 
Corporation, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In numerous 
reports and testimonies over the last several years, we have discussed 
the key role that IGs play in federal agency oversight.[Footnote 1] 

The Inspector General Act of 1978,[Footnote 2] created offices of 
inspector general at major departments and agencies with IGs who are 
appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and may be removed 
only by the President with notice to the Congress stating the reasons. 
(See appendix I.) The IGs are to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in 
their agencies' programs and operations; conduct audits and 
investigations; and recommend policies to promote economy, efficiency, 
and effectiveness. In 1988, the 1978 IG Act was amended to establish 
additional IG offices in designated federal entities (DFE) defined by 
the act.[Footnote 3] Generally, the DFE IGs have the same authorities 
and responsibilities as those originally established by the IG Act but 
there is a clear distinction--they are appointed and may be removed by 
their agency heads rather than by the President and are not subject to 
Senate confirmation. (See Appendix II.) In the now more than three 
decades since passage of the IG Act, the IGs have been instrumental in 
enhancing government accountability. 

Our nation is currently in the midst of one of the worst financial 
crises ever. As we recently reported, the current U.S. financial 
regulatory system has relied on a fragmented and complex arrangement of 
federal and state regulators--put into place over the last 150 years-- 
that has not kept pace with major developments in financial markets, 
products, and associated risks in recent decades.[Footnote 4] It has 
become apparent that the U.S. financial regulatory system is ill suited 
to meet the nation's needs in the 21st century, and significant reforms 
to the U.S. financial regulatory system are critically and urgently 
needed. We have included modernization of the outdated U.S. financial 
regulatory system as a high-risk area in our recent report of high-risk 
designations across the federal government.[Footnote 5] 

Currently, both the administration and the Congress are considering 
many options aimed at strengthening the financial regulatory system. 
H.R. 885 would provide for the inspectors general for selected 
financial regulatory agencies to be appointed by the President with 
Senate confirmation. Those IGs currently are appointed by their agency 
heads and may be removed by their agency heads. 

Today, I will discuss (1) the legislative proposals in H.R. 885, (2) 
the key principles and importance of auditor and IG independence, and 
(3) current coordination mechanisms in place for IG offices. My 
testimony today draws primarily on prior GAO reports and testimonies 
conducted in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. 
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

Provisions of H.R. 885: 

Currently, the IGs at the Federal Reserve Board, Commodity Futures 
Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Credit 
Union Administration, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation are 
appointed to their offices by their agency heads and may be removed 
from office by their respective agency heads. H.R. 885, Improved 
Financial and Commodity Markets Oversight and Accountability Act, would 
provide for the conversion of these IGs from appointment by their 
respective agency heads to appointment by the President with 
confirmation by the Senate. Likewise, after this conversion, these IGs 
may be removed only by the President with advance notification to the 
Congress of the reasons. We believe that the differences in the 
appointment and removal processes between presidentially appointed IGs 
and those appointed by their agency heads result in a clear difference 
in the level of independence of the IGs. A general tenet to keep in 
mind is that the further removed the appointment source is from the 
entity to be audited, the greater the level of independence. 

In the past, the Congress has taken actions to convert IGs from 
appointment by their agency heads to appointment by the President with 
Senate confirmation as a way to enhance IG independence. For example, 
on the heels of the savings and loan and banking crisis, over two 
decades ago, the role of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's 
(FDIC) IG became increasingly important in providing oversight. Due to 
the perceived limitation of the FDIC IG's independence resulting from 
agency appointment, the Congress converted the IG from agency 
appointment to appointment by the President with Senate confirmation. 
[Footnote 6] In another example, the Congress took action to convert 
the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) IG to appointment by the President 
with Senate confirmation because of concerns about interference by TVA 
management.[Footnote 7] In both cases, Congress recognized that the 
IG's independence would be enhanced by the presidential appointment. 
The change from agency appointment to appointment by the President has 
been recognized by Congress since the advent of the IG concept as 
strengthening the critical element of IG independence. As we have noted 
in prior reports and testimony, we believe independence is one of the 
most important elements of an effective IG function. 

Auditor and IG Independence: 

We believe that the differences in the appointment and removal 
processes between presidentially appointed IGs and those appointed by 
agency heads result in a clear difference in the organizational 
independence of the IGs. The IG Act, as amended (IG Act),[Footnote 8] 
requires IGs to perform audits in compliance with Government Auditing 
Standards[Footnote 9] and authorizes IGs to conduct inspections and 
investigations.[Footnote 10] These standards recognize the methods for 
external appointment and removal of the IG as key independence 
considerations to enable internal IG offices to report their work 
externally. Those offices with IGs appointed by the President are more 
closely aligned with the independence standards for external audit 
organizations,[Footnote 11] while those offices with IGs appointed by 
the agency head are more closely aligned with the independence 
standards for internal audit organizations.[Footnote 12] 

In 1988, IG Act amendments created the DFE IGs, including those covered 
by H.R. 885, with a clear distinction in their appointment--they are 
appointed and removed by their entity heads rather than by the 
President and are not subject to Senate confirmation. Organizational 
independence differs between the offices of presidentially appointed 
IGs and other IGs who are agency appointed. The DFE IGs, while 
generally covered by many of the same provisions of the IG Act as the 
IGs appointed by the President with Senate confirmation, are more 
closely aligned to independence standards for internal auditors than to 
those for external auditors. At the same time, Government Auditing 
Standards recognizes that additional statutory safeguards exist for DFE 
IG independence for reporting externally. These safeguards include 
establishment of the IG by statute, communication of the reasons for 
removal of the head of an audit organization to the cognizant 
legislative oversight body, statutory protections that prevent the 
audited entity from interfering with an audit, statutory requirements 
for the audit organization to report to a legislative body on a 
recurring basis, and statutory access to records and documents related 
to agency programs. 

Independence is one of the most important elements of an effective IG 
function. In fact, much of the IG Act provides specific protections to 
IG independence that are unprecedented for an audit and investigative 
function located within the organization being reviewed. These 
protections are necessary in large part because of the unusual 
reporting requirements of the IGs, who are both subject to the general 
supervision and budget processes of the agencies they audit, and also 
expected to provide independent reports of their work externally to the 
Congress and the public. 

Independence is also the cornerstone of professional auditing. Without 
independence, an audit organization cannot fully provide independent 
audits, perspectives, and assessments. Likewise, an IG who lacks 
independence cannot effectively fulfill the full range of requirements 
for the office. Lacking this critical attribute, an audit 
organization's work might be classified as studies, research, 
consulting, or reviews, rather than independent audits. 

Government Auditing Standards states, "In all matters relating to the 
audit work, the audit organization and the individual auditor, whether 
government or public, must be free from personal, external, and 
organizational impairments to independence, and must avoid the 
appearance of such impairments to independence. Auditors and audit 
organizations must maintain independence so that their opinions, 
findings, conclusions, judgments, and recommendations will be impartial 
and be viewed as impartial by objective third parties with knowledge of 
the relevant information." (Emphasis added.) 

* Personal independence applies to individual auditors at all levels of 
the audit organization, including the head of the organization. 
Personal independence refers to the auditor's ability to remain 
objective and maintain an independent attitude in all matters relating 
to the audit, as well as the auditor's ability to be recognized by 
others as independent. The auditor needs an independent and objective 
state of mind that does not allow personal bias or the undue influence 
of others to override his or her professional judgments. This attitude 
is also referred to as intellectual honesty. The auditor must also be 
free from direct financial or managerial involvement with the audited 
entity or other potential conflicts of interest that might create the 
perception that the auditor is not independent. 

* External independence refers to both the auditor's and the audit 
organization's freedom to make independent and objective judgments free 
from external influences or pressures. Examples of impairments to 
external independence include restrictions on access to records, 
government officials, or other individuals needed to conduct the audit; 
external interference over the assignment, appointment, compensation, 
or promotion of audit personnel; restrictions on funds or other 
resources provided to the audit organization that adversely affect the 
audit organization's ability to carry out its responsibilities; or 
external authority to overrule or to inappropriately influence the 
auditors' judgment as to appropriate reporting content. 

* Organizational independence refers to the audit organization's 
placement in relation to the activities being audited. Professional 
auditing standards have different criteria for organizational 
independence for external and internal audit organizations. The IGs, in 
their statutory role of providing oversight of their agencies' 
operations, represent a unique hybrid of external and internal 
reporting responsibilities. 

The implementation of the IGs' reporting relationships with their 
respective agency heads can also significantly affect the independence 
of the IGs. Generally, the IGs represent a hybrid of external auditing 
and internal auditing in their oversight roles for federal agencies. 
The IG offices, having been created to perform a unique role in 
overseeing federal agency operations, have characteristics of both 
external audit organizations and internal audit organizations. For 
example, the IGs have external reporting requirements consistent with 
the reporting requirements for external auditors, while at the same 
time they are part of their respective agencies. 

IGs also have a dual reporting responsibility to the Congress and their 
agency heads. The IGs' external reporting requirements in the IG Act 
include reporting the results of their work in semiannual reports to 
the Congress. Under the IG Act, the IGs are to report their findings 
without alteration by their respective agencies, and public reports are 
to be made available on each IG's website. The IG Act also directs the 
IGs to keep agency heads and the Congress fully and currently informed 
of any problems, deficiencies, abuses, fraud, or other serious problems 
relating to the administration of programs and operations of their 
agencies. Also, the IGs are required to report particularly serious or 
flagrant problems, abuses, or deficiencies immediately to their agency 
heads, who are required to transmit the IG's report to the Congress 
within 7 calendar days. 

The IG Act also provides specific protections to IG independence, 
including a prohibition on the ability of the agency head to prevent or 
prohibit the IG from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit 
or investigation. This prohibition is directed at helping to protect 
the IG office from external forces that could compromise independence. 
The IG's personal independence and the appearance of independence to 
knowledgeable third parties is also critical when the IG makes 
decisions related to the nature and scope of audit and investigative 
work performed by the IG office. The IG must determine how to utilize 
the IG Act's protection of independence in conducting and pursuing the 
audit and investigative work. The IG's personal independence is 
necessary to make the proper decisions in such cases. 

The IG Act provides the IGs with protections to external independence 
by providing access to all agency documents and records; prompt access 
to the agency head; the ability to select and appoint IG staff; the 
authority to obtain services of experts; and the authority to enter 
into contracts. The IG may choose whether or not to exercise the act's 
specific authority to obtain access to information that is denied by 
agency officials. Again, each IG must make decisions regarding the use 
of the IG Act's provisions for access to information, and the IG's 
personal independence becomes key in making these decisions. 

The IG Reform Act of 2008 (Reform Act), enacted on October 14, 2008, 
amends the IG Act to further enhance the independence of the IGs, among 
other things.[Footnote 13] To illustrate, the 1978 IG Act requires that 
the IGs nominated by the President be selected without regard to 
political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and defined 
abilities. However, these criteria were not included as a provision in 
the legislation that created the DFE IGs. The Reform Act extends these 
qualification criteria to apply also to the selection of the DFE IGs. 
In addition, the independence of all the IGs under the Reform Act 
amendments is enhanced by changes to the timing of notification to 
Congress of an IG removal or transfer--to at least 30 days before any 
planned removal of an IG under the IG Act, rather than merely an after- 
the-fact notice of prior removal. 

IG Coordination: 

Prior to the passage of the IG Reform Act in 2008, the IGs' 
coordinating structure included two separate administratively 
established organizations: the IGs appointed by the President with 
Senate confirmation belonged to the President's Council on Integrity 
and Efficiency (PCIE), and the DFE IGs formed the Executive Council on 
Integrity and Efficiency (ECIE). Both councils have been chaired by the 
Deputy Director for Management in the Office of Management and Budget 
and were established by Executive Order to coordinate the IGs' 
activities across the government.[Footnote 14] In our 2002 report, we 
had suggested that the Congress consider establishing an IG council by 
statute that includes stated roles and responsibilities, designated 
funding sources, and provisions for coordination with other federal 
oversight organizations.[Footnote 15] 

The IG Reform Act created an independent establishment in the executive 
branch, called the Council of IGs on Integrity and Efficiency, to 
replace the PCIE and ECIE, and to aid the IG community and foster 
government wide efforts to coordinate and improve oversight. This 
includes the establishment of a revolving fund to be used for council 
functions and duties with amounts in the fund coming from executive 
branch agencies. This new IG coordinating structure is to become 
effective 180 days after the date the Reform Act became law. 

Other recent efforts involve the coordination of financial regulatory 
IGs. On October 3, 2008, the President signed into law the Emergency 
Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), which established the Office 
of Financial Stability within the Department of the Treasury and 
authorized the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The Special IG for 
TARP (SIG TARP), created by EESA, who is appointed by the President 
with Senate confirmation, has announced efforts to coordinate with 
other IGs who operate in areas related to TARP activities. The 
coordination group referred to as the TARP-IG Council was established 
administratively by the SIG TARP and includes the IGs at the Federal 
Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal 
Housing Finance Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the 
Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the 
Treasury, and the Treasury IG for Tax Administration, as well as 
representatives from GAO. The TARP-IG Council seeks to coordinate the 
activities of the IGs, establish protocols, and share ideas for 
comprehensive audits and investigations, while avoiding unnecessary or 
duplicative burdens on those charged with managing TARP. 

The SIG TARP also announced the formation of a broad, multi agency task 
force designed to deter, detect, and investigate instances of fraud in 
the Federal Reserve's Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) 
program, which is intended to make credit available to consumers and 
small businesses. The task force was created in coordination with the 
Federal Reserve Board IG and will include the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, U.S. 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service's 
Criminal Investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the 
U.S. Postal Inspection Service. 

With the growing complexity of the federal government, the severity of 
the problems it faces, and the fiscal constraints under which it 
operates, it is important that independent, objective, and reliable IG 
structures be in place at federal agencies to ensure adequate audit and 
investigative coverage of federal programs and operations. The current 
crisis in the financial markets is illustrative of the significant 
challenges facing the federal government. As the administration and the 
Congress continue to take actions to address the immediate financial 
crisis, creating a regulatory system that reflects new market realities 
is a key step to reducing the likelihood that the United States will 
experience another financial crisis and enhancing oversight of the 
direction and implementation of current initiatives. As a result, 
considerable debate is under way over whether and how the current 
regulatory system should be changed, including calls for consolidating 
regulatory agencies, broadening certain regulators' authorities, or 
subjecting certain products or entities to more regulation. Strong 
independent oversight and accountability functions of the inspectors 
general at the regulatory agencies will be an important element of this 

Coordination of the financial regulatory agencies' IGs is especially 
important during the current financial crisis. The fragmented and 
complex arrangement of federal and state regulators makes the 
communication and coordination of IGs at the regulatory agencies 
challenging but critical to providing effective oversight as 
significant reforms in the U.S. financial regulatory system evolve. 

This completes by formal statement, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to 
answer any questions that you or the Subcommittee members may have at 
this time. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Federal Agencies and Departments with IGs Established by 
the IG Act of 1978, as Amended, and Appointed by the President: 

Agency for International Development: 

Corporation for National and Community Service: 

Department of Agriculture: 

Department of Commerce: 

Department of Defense: 

Department of Education: 

Department of Energy: 

Department of Health and Human Services: 

Department of Homeland Security: 

Department of Housing and Urban Development: 

Department of the Interior: 

Department of Justice: 

Department of Labor: 

Department of State: 

Department of Transportation: 

Department of Treasury: 

Department of Veterans Affairs: 

Environmental Protection Agency: 

Export-Import Bank: 

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: 

Federal Emergency Management Agency: 

General Services Administration: 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: 

Office of Personnel Management: 

Railroad Retirement Board: 

Small Business Administration: 

Social Security Administration: 

Tennessee Valley Authority: 

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration: 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Designated Federal Entities Defined by the IG Act with IGs 
Appointed by Their Agency Heads: 


Appalachian Regional Commission: 

Broadcasting Board of Governors[A]: 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission: 

Consumer Product Safety Commission: 

Corporation for Public Broadcasting: 

Denali Commission: 

Election Assistance Commission: 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: 

Farm Credit Administration: 

Federal Communications Commission: 

Federal Election Commission: 

Federal Housing Finance Board: 

Federal Labor Relations Authority: 

Federal Maritime Commission: 

Federal Reserve Board: 

Federal Trade Commission: 

Legal Services Corporation: 

National Archives and Records Administration: 

National Credit Union Administration: 

National Endowment for the Arts: 

National Endowment for the Humanities: 

National Labor Relations Board: 

National Science Foundation: 

Peace Corps: 

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: 

Postal Regulatory Commission: 

Securities and Exchange Commission: 

Smithsonian Institution: 

United States International Trade Commission: 

United States Postal Service: 

[A] The Broadcasting Board of Governors is a designated federal entity 
with oversight provided by the Department of State IG. 

Highlighted entities are included in H.R. 885. 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Inspectors General: Opportunities to Enhance Independence and 
Accountability, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: July 11, 2007); GAO, Inspectors General: Proposals 
to Strengthen Independence and Accountability, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 
2007); GAO, Highlights of the Comptroller General's Panel on Federal 
Oversight and the Inspectors General, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: September 
11, 2006); GAO, Inspectors General: Enhancing Federal Accountability, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
October 8, 2003), GAO, Inspectors General: Office Consolidation and 
Related Issues, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: August 15, 2002). 

[2] Pub. L. No. 95-452, 92 Stat. 1101 (Oct. 12, 1978) (codified, as 
amended, at 5 U.S.C. App.). 

[3] Pub. L. No. 100-504, 102 Stat. 2515 (Oct. 18, 1988) (5 U.S.C. 

[4] GAO, Financial Regulation: A Framework for Crafting and Assessing 
Proposals to Modernize the Outdated U.S. Financial Regulatory System, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
Jan 8, 2009). 

[5] GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: January 

[6] Resolution Trust Corporation Completion Act, Public Law 103-204, 
Dec. 17, 1993. 

[7] Pub. L. No. 106-422, 114 Stat. 1872 (Nov. 1, 2000). 

[8] Codified at 5 U.S.C. App. 

[9] GAO, Government Auditing Standards, July 2007 Revision, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: July 2007), 
issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. 

[10] Professional standards for the IGs have been issued by the 
President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency and the Executive 
Council on Integrity and Efficiency. 

[11] External auditors report externally, meaning that their audit 
reports are disseminated to and used by third parties. Under 
professional standards, external audit organizations are 
organizationally independent when they are organizationally placed 
outside of the entity under audit. In government, this is achieved when 
the audit organization is in a different level of government (for 
example, federal auditors auditing a state government program) or 
different branch of government within the same level of government (for 
example, legislative auditors such as GAO auditing an executive branch 

[12] Under internal auditing standards, internal auditors are generally 
limited to reporting internally to the organization that they audit, 
except when certain conditions are met, such as when mandated by 
statutory or regulatory requirements. (See the Institute of Internal 
Auditors, International Professional Practices Framework (Almonte 
Springs, Fla: Jan. 2009).Internal audit organizations are 
organizationally placed within the organization they audit and are 
defined as being organizationally independent under professional 
auditing standards if the head of the audit organization (1) is 
accountable to the head or deputy head of the government entity or to 
those charged with governance; (2) reports audit results both to the 
head or deputy head of the government entity and to those charged with 
governance; (3) is located organizationally outside the staff or line- 
management function of the unit under audit; (4) has access to those 
charged with governance; and (5) is sufficiently removed from political 
pressures to conduct audits and report findings, opinions, and 
conclusions objectively without fear of political reprisal. 

[13] Many of the provisions in the Reform Act were discussed by a panel 
hosted by the Comptroller General during May 2006. The discussion 
included the appointment and removal of IGs, an IG council established 
by statute, and areas related to IG independence and effectiveness. See 

[14] The IG Act has required IGs to coordinate with the Comptroller 
General to avoid duplication and ensure effective coordination and 
cooperation. 5 U.S.C. App. § 4(c). 

[15] GAO, Inspectors General: Office Consolidation and Related Issues, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
Aug. 15, 2002). 

[End of section] 

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