With everything else that is going on in Washington, a sneaky change to guidance for federal employees who discover lawbreaking in the spending of appropriated funds might seem like small potatoes. But we believe proper implementation of the Antideficiency Act oversight provisions are important because they provide:
- protection of the constitutional prerogative of Congress to appropriate funds and,
- a critical tool for preventing wasteful spending
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently revised its guidance to federal agencies on the statutory requirement to report overspending of federal funds to the President, the Congress and the Comptroller General. The Antideficiency Act unequivocally states once an agency discovers funds have been spent in excess of a Congressional appropriation they, “shall report immediately to the President and Congress all relevant facts.” The new guidance tells agencies that, when considering responding to violations flagged by the Government Accountability Office, the agencies should withhold relevant information from Congress unless and until OMB agrees that a violation has occurred. If they don’t think there is a violation, they don’t have to explain the difference of opinion to anyone. This is both a violation of law and of Congressional rights of oversight.
The senior Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are outraged and so are we at Taxpayers for Common Sense. This is another assault on the constitutional prerogatives of the legislative branch. It’s also likely to greatly weaken tools designed to ensure Executive Branch agencies don’t spend money they do not have available.
We’ve been writing and talking about the Antideficiency Act for a few years. For a refresher course on the issue, read our Weekly Wastebasket from a few weeks ago, “The Separation of Powers Matters”.