Monday, October 23, 2006

Who watches the watchers?

Our elected officials. Which, during election season, is at least enough to make you go "hmmm":

The House Appropriations Committee has let go about 60 private contractors who made up most of an investigative unit that was auditing billions of dollars in government spending, including the $62 billion federal relief package for Hurricane Katrina, the panel's spokesman said Thursday.

The investigators, attached to the committee's Surveys and Investigations division, were released during the past week, committee spokesman John Scofield said. He said that the quality of the unit's work had been questioned by leaders of the Republican-controlled committee, including some Democrats, but he declined to say who.

The shake-up — which leaves only 16 full-time employees in the investigative unit — comes about a year after the Appropriations Committee's chairman, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., launched the Katrina review by saying the unit would "conduct a wide-ranging assessment and analysis of disaster spending." At the time, Lewis said the unit had a tradition of "comprehensive" reporting.

Firing 60 of 76 full-time auditors? What's going on?

Well, there's this to consider: According to Think Progress (and I take that sourcing with a grain of salt), it might have something to do with the fact that Lewis himself is under federal investigation for corruption charges related to jailed former Rep. Randy Cunningham. Although that doesn't make a ton of sense; calling off the Appropriations auditors wouldn't affect the corruption investigation.

Meanwhile, Citizens against Government Waste isn't happy.

It certainly raises a lot of questions.

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