Jimmy Carter photo

Inspector General Act of 1978 Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony.

October 12, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. I have been trying to wait until Chairman Brooks arrived, but apparently he is caught in the traffic and won't be here for a few minutes. But we'll go ahead anyhow, and I hope he will come in before long. He's been one of the originators and a strong supporter of this, along with Congressman Fountain in the House and with very strong support from Senator Ribicoff and Tom Eagleton and others in the Senate.

I think it's accurate to say that the American people are fed up with the treatment of American tax money in a way that involves fraud and mismanagement and embarrassment to the Government. I consider and these Members of the House and Senate behind me consider the tax money to be a matter of public trust. We've not yet completely succeeded in rooting out the embarrassing aspects of government management—or mis- management. This bill will go a long way toward resolving that problem.

It establishes 12 Inspectors General who will be within the agencies involved, the 12 major agencies. They will be appointed by me. They will be confirmed by the Senate. They will come under the Hatch Act to prevent any politicization of the functions. They will make their reports to the Attorney General if law violations are involved. They'll make frequent, periodic reports to the head of the agency. They'll make reports to the Congress. When they make a report directly to the Congress, the head of the agency cannot modify that report in any way. The head of the agency can append comments. These Inspectors General will be responsible for auditing, and they will be responsible for investigating any allegations of fraud or mismanagement.

In addition, there is a provision in the bill that protects whistleblowers. If someone comes from within the agency, meets with the Inspector General, reports something that's a violation of the law or an example of gross mismanagement or waste, the Inspector General has the authority to protect the identity of that person, if that person so requests, to make sure that there is no punishment inflicted on that person who brings attention to the public of mismanagement or fraud. One thing that I would like to add is that this has been a very good, cooperative effort. The agencies involved have agreed that the Inspectors General should be added to their departments. I have cooperated completely with the Members of the House and Senate, and I think the men behind me—especially, as I say, Chairman Brooks, who's been the main one to negotiate with me, L. H. Fountain, and 12 others who originated the bill— deserve an awful lot of credit.

The House and Senate have worked in cooperation, too. And I particularly want to congratulate, again, Senator Eagleton and Senator Ribicoff and others.

It's very important for us to put this bill into effect as rapidly as possible, and the responsibility of mine is to choose people for Inspectors General who will be both competent and whose integrity is unquestioned.

So, I'm very grateful that we have this chance to protect the taxpayer's dollar, to root out corruption, fraud, waste, mismanagement in the most effective and enthusiastic fashion. It's with a great deal of pleasure that I sign into law House bill 8588, to establish Inspectors General in 12 departments in Federal Government.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Mr. Chairman, I'm glad you arrived. I said all the good things about you before you got here.

REPRESENTATIVE BROOKS. Well, you did a beautiful job on the legislation, really, because you followed it and knew what it was about. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm very proud. Thank you very much, Lawton.

As you all know, Lawton Chiles has been one of the guiding lights in bringing about correction of some of the abuses in the general services agency and other places where fraud has been apparent. And my intention is to add at least 100 inspectors and auditors to the general services agency next year as rapidly as possible to conclude that investigation effectively.

Thank you, Lawton, for your good work.

I might say that this has been a bipartisan effort, too. Frank Horton and others here have been very helpful. Chuck Percy, thank you very much. Joe, good luck, and thank you very much.

It has been remarkable that the members of the Cabinet have cooperated as well as they have. [Laughter] But I think that's a tribute to the forcefulness of the Members of the House and Senate. Thank you all very much.

Would you like to say a word? Mr. Chairman, would you like to say a word?

REPRESENTATIVE BROOKS. I want to say it's a pleasure to work with you, and I must say that your delineation of what the bill will do and can do for the Government was outstanding. And I'm glad you're not in the Congress, or you'd be running the whole thing, instead of just 99 percent of it. [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE FOUNTAIN. Mr. President, I would like to say that I think this legislation, which we've been working on idea-wise for many years—we thought the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations would do a lot of it. It's done some good, but it hasn't gone this far. But I think this will fit into your reorganization plan, and the key point that you mentioned, the fact that the Inspectors General will be appointed by you and have the power of the appointment of the President, confirmed by the Senate, and the independence that he'll have to investigate and not have to ask someone, is a significant thing about this bill.

And I think it has potential for saving and preventing the expenditure of billions of dollars so you won't have to cut out all the services you might otherwise have to cut.

THE PRESIDENT. That's a good point.

I might say that the standards for inspection and auditing will be worked out by the General Accounting Office, working closely with the Office of Management and Budget. This will be implemented under the provisions of the law and, as Tom Eagleton said during the debate, by executive direction.

So, we'll move enthusiastically. And I think the harmony and the partnership being established between the executive and legislative branch of Government to root out fraud and corruption and mismanagement is a very constructive step.

SENATOR PERCY. Mr. President, I think in the absence of Chairman Ribicoff, Senator Chiles—

SENATOR CHILES. Tom, I think, had something.

SENATOR EAGLETON. Well, I'll just be brief. I thought the ceremony was going fine till Brooks arrived. [Laughter] I have nothing to add.

REPRESENTATIVE BROOKS. That was correct. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Frank Horton would like to say a word.

REPRESENTATIVE HORTON. Well, Mr. President, I want to echo everything that's already been said and thank the administration for their support of this legislation. We already have in existence Inspector Generals in several of the departments. And it was a result of legislation that we had passed in the last Congress that set up the Inspector General in HEW.

And Tom Morris, through the work that he's been doing there—HEW has already uncovered a lot of abuse. And as a result of that, I got a letter from somebody in Texas one time which was based on a report in one of the national magazines, and they wrote and said, well, all this has been discovered, all this fraud and abuse. What has the Congress done about this? And I wrote back and said we were the ones that got the Inspector General started. So, I think we'll see a lot of excellent results.

And this is certainly one of those steps in the right direction to cut down on Government expenditures.

THE PRESIDENT. I agree. Chuck, would you like to say a word?

SENATOR PERCY. I just echo what has been said. The General and I have been talking about the Office of Public Integrity in the Justice Department. We're going to try to emphasize the importance of that in legislation we're marking up today. I think we have a tremendous responsibility in government to ensure that the standards are even higher than in private life. And for that reason, I think great emphasis is being placed by Congress and the administration on this area, and I think we're going to get to the bottom of it.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:13 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 8588 is Public Law 95-452, approved October 12.

Jimmy Carter, Inspector General Act of 1978 Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243957

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