OTG endorses stronger oversight, accountability, and transparency provisions in new CORE Act

Open The Government and several coalition partners endorsed the new Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act, legislation introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD) to strengthen oversight, accountability, and transparency in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OTG pushed for stronger transparency provisions in the legislation, which was also endorsed by Project on Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Public Citizen, and Transparency International U.S. Office. Several of the provisions mirror recommendations made in an OTG coalition letter sent to Congress in April. The CORE Act would:

  • Prohibit Conflicts of Interest that arise in the selection or hiring of contractors or advisors and the distribution of relief grants and loans.
  • Empower & Protect Inspectors General to be fired only for good cause and require the President to inform Congress when the IG is removed from office, while ensuring a public review by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Integrity.
  • Strengthen the Congressional Oversight Commission with subpoena authority for testimony and expand its oversight power to include all COVID-19 relief funding.
  • Strengthen CARES Act Executive Branch Accountability & Oversight Entities by requiring the Treasury Secretary to report instances of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief or Pandemic Relief Accountability Committee being denied information in the course of their oversight.
  • Protect Whistleblowers at government agencies, government contractors, and in the private sector who witness waste, fraud, or abuse or are themselves victims of misconduct.
  • Restrict and Disclose Lobbying & Political Spending by requiring lobbyists to make monthly disclosures on all lobbying connected to COVID-19 relief spending.
  • Improve Transparency & Disclosure around Bailout Funds by requiring recipients of COVID-19 emergency funding to provide regular public reporting on how the funds are used.
  • Strengthen Enforcement by allowing individuals harmed by companies’ misuse of COVID-19 funds to seek recourse through the courts.

A summary and a draft of the legislation are available here and here.