Aderholt lists priorities at USDA IG ag appropriations hearing | TheFencePost.com

Aderholt lists priorities at USDA IG ag appropriations hearing

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., on Feb. 15 listed his priorities for the 115th Congress at an oversight hearing on the activities of the Agriculture Department's Office of the Inspector General.

Aderholt said his priorities will be: evaluating and accounting for taxpayer dollars to ensure efficiency and accountability including the elimination of "burdensome regulation;" investing in rural infrastructure as a catalyst for growth; ensuring support for farmers, ranchers and producers; protecting the health and safety of people, plants and animals.

In welcoming USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong, Aderholt noted his interest in "USDA's three-year delay in setting up the Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs mandated by the 2014 farm bill."

In her testimony, Fong noted that USDA's budget is $159 billion and that her office had focused on audits and investigations of USDA's work.

"Last year, our audit and investigative work obtained potential monetary results totaling more than $374 million. We issued 42 audit reports, including two interim reports, and made 275 recommendations to strengthen USDA programs and operations, which produced about $213.9 million in potential results. OIG investigations led to 621 convictions with monetary results totaling $160.1 million," Fong said.

In describing current and future work, Fong said, "OIG is assessing whether USDA scientists perceive they have an unhindered ability to perform, communicate and publish all appropriate aspects of their research assignments or projects" and has "recently initiated an audit to determine whether the actions the Forest Service took in response to complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace were effective and sufficient."

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Fong also noted that OIG is functioning with its lowest staffing level since 1978 due to the loss of a number of employees in the past year and "the need to proceed carefully in hiring new employees due to the uncertainty of our FY 2017 appropriation."

President Donald Trump has imposed a freeze on hiring government employees.

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