Huge Boost For Federal Spending Watchdog Jobs

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A quarter-billion dollars for inspectors-general offices within more than 20 separate federal agencies. Eighty-four million for an entirley new federal oversight panel, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. A $25 million infusion to the Government Accountability Office, to help Congress itself better oversee the wide-ranging stimulus programs it just birthed.

Additional jobs for government auditors, investigators and lawyers look to be among the first visible results of the $787 billion stimulus plan signed into law last week.

That legislation directs more than $350 million of new spending for oversight of the various programs - "virtually guaranteeing boom times in the field of government accountability," the New York Times points out.

Seven Times Larger Than Funding to Oversee Financial Bailout

By comparison, Congress allocated only $50 million last fall for a new inspector general's office to oversee the $700 financial system bailout. Wall Street professionals - especially those who've been laid off - are already eyeing bailout-related government jobs as one of the few growth sectors left in finance. The dollar comparison suggests the stimulus bill could kick off a still larger hiring binge for people whose finance skills developed in the private sector. "The general perception that the Bush administration mishandled the financial bailout has only added pressure for oversight of the stimulus," the Times observes.

The Commerce Department inspector general's office got an additional $16 million from the bill - a staggering 70 percent increase over its total 2008 budget of about $23 million. The inspector general, Todd J. Zinser, told the newspaper he might add as many as 30 new employees, mainly in four field offices. The bulk of Commerce's allocation is to oversee a program to expand broadband Internet service.

Some further points in the Times story:

- Finding enough qualified auditors and investigators "might be a challenge in itself."

- Just like the state and local agencies that are the stimulus plan's direct targets, some of the federal oversight departments are struggling to figure out "how quickly they can hire staff, whether they should hire permanent employees who might have to be laid off down the line or enlist independent contractors on a temporary basis."

- Some inspectors general say they'll post every job they fill and every investigation they undertake. The stimulus law requires all expenditures be posted to a public Web site, www.recovery.gov.

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