Accountability in government is a no-brainer.
Elected officials should be held accountable for what they say, how they vote, what they do and what they fail to do.
Additionally, the money spent by government should be accounted for, with online reports of purchases and expenditures, bolstered by audits and reviews that ensure public money has been spent efficiently and for the intended purposes.
These days, federal officials are working hard to see that doesn’t happen.
One huge example is the oversight provisions in the $2.2 trillion relief package that Congress pushed through in late March.
President Donald Trump has made clear that he thinks he can spend the money as he wants. In a White House statement March 27, he announced that he rejected the law‘s provision calling for oversight by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
To make his point clear, he fired Glenn Fine, the inspector general of the Pentagon, who had been tapped to lead the oversight committee.
Trump claimed Fine was too partisan. FactCheck.org reports that Fine had worked eight years in Republican President George Bush’s administration, as well as in the administrations of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Here’s how Trump’s former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described Fine in an email to Yahoo News: “Mr. Fine is a public servant in the finest tradition of honest, competent governance. In my years of extensive engagement with him as our Department of Defense’s acting Inspector General, he proved to be a leader whose personal and managerial integrity were always of the highest order.”
That likely was the real problem Trump had with Fine.
About the same time Trump fired Fine, he also fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general.
Trump said he fired Atkinson because he was “a disgrace” and that he had no confidence in him.
The president’s assessment stems from Atkinson’s handling of a whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s decision to halt aid to Ukraine and evidence the decision was tied efforts Trump made to get Ukraine’s top leaders to launch a criminal investigation into political rival Joe Biden.
Trump claims the whistleblower’s account was inaccurate and that Atkinson should have buried it. A U.S. House investigation, led by Democrats, found that the whistleblower’s account was accurate and was sufficient reason to impeach the president.
The Senate, led by Republicans, shrugged, then dismissed the entire scandal without calling any witnesses.
Among most Republicans in Congress, the firings of inspectors general have received the same lackadaisical response.
And when Trump announced he would flout the provisions for oversight of $2.2 trillion in bailout funds, they shrugged some more.
And when reports arose that the White House was awarding huge pandemic-related contracts outside normal procedures, and without bids, congressional Republicans just kept shrugging.
This is known as blatantly bad government.
Oversight and audits are necessary. That goes double in times of disaster or crisis.
When government provides aid quickly, it can’t be as diligent in checking credentials and backgrounds. It’s the same with any endeavor: The faster you try to do something, the less care you can take.
So it’s crucial to have people and processes that provide quick checks upfront when possible, and, more importantly, that review and report who got money and why.
Honest government officials don’t just welcome such oversight, they demand it.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.