As we noted earlier, the Senate has confirmed Neil Barofsky as Special IG for the bailout, or TARP (for Troubled Asset Relief Program). But there's one more step that needs to be taken before he can really get down to work.
A bill introduced by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (known in these parts respectively as Saint Claire and the Watchdog's Watchdog) would update and strengthen the original legislation that created the TARP by making clear that Barofsky has all the powers and authority he needs to get the job done.
The bill being “hotlined” today is called the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008, and was co-sponsored by Sens. Collins (R-ME), Lieberman (I-CT), Snowe (R-ME), Dodd (D-CT), Schumer (D-NY), Coleman (R-MN), and Bunning (R-KY). (That last one is rather ironic since many suspected he was the unnamed Republican who placed a hold on the Barofsky nomination. But that was then, this is now, and Sen. Bunning is clearly among those who want Barofsky to be fully vested in the authority required.)
The SIGTARP bill is barely five pages long but includes several important points:
1. Makes clear that the Special IG has authority over all TARP actions, no matter how much they may change or evolve.
2. Allows the Special IG to hire auditors and investigators and other staff immediately, without having to go through the usual laborious civil service rules. This is a waiver of those rules that was also granted to the Special IG for Iraq Reconstruction. The justification is that these are special offices set up for limited time periods. What's more, after six months, any additional hires by the SIG must follow civil service rules.
3. If the Treasury Secretary doesn't implement recommendations made by the SIG, then he must explain why to Congress.
4. The SIG must coordinate and cooperate with other affected IGs.
5. Next July 1st, the SIG must issue a report analyzing where the money has gone thusfar. That report will go to Congress but must be posted for the public on the internet within 24 hours.
6. The $50 million set aside for the SIG's offices must be made available to him within seven days of his confirmation.
We are told, by the way, that Sen. Snowe particularly pushed for items 3, 5 and 6, so a special tip o' the POGO hat to her. Now let's see this thing become law, people!
-- Beverley Lumpkin