Whether it’s the latest funding announced by the Energy Department or the EPA, Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford thinks the public has a right to know where and how the money is being spent.
After all, the money came from tax payers, right? The GOP Senator recently made his point during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing during which he questioned Gene Dodaro, the Comptroller General of the US Government Accountability Office.
The hearing was entitled “GAO’s 2023 High-Risk List: Recommendations to Reduce Risk of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” GAO’s High-Risk List is a detailed report issued by GAO at the start of each new session of Congress, and it identifies federal operations that are potentially vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement.
Lankford asked for another update on the status of implementation of his Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, which passed in January 2021 and which he has fought for since 2011.
He remains actively engaged with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and GAO to push them to launch the federal spending database so taxpayers and Congress can see what needs to be fixed. The bill, which is now law, ensures completion of a functional federal program inventory that can be used as a tool for oversight of federal spending; to highlight good stewardship of tax dollars; and to provide greater transparency of duplication, inefficiency, and waste.
Lankford has long maintained that government transparency is something we should all agree on. Lankford highlighted the need to get the database up and running on the Senate floor.
Lankford also asked about what it will take to simplify the federal hiring process, and why the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Census do not coordinate data every 10 years to assist with Census data collection.
He pressed Dodaro on GAO’s ongoing telework status and whether it is impacting their oversight duties and questioned why the usually nonpartisan GAO is getting involved in the cultural conversation about “inclusivity” after making updates to their style guide regarding employees not using words like “unmanned” and “policeman,” for example, because they are not “inclusive.”
On where we stand with Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act implementation
Lankford: You’ll know the rest of this question when I start it—the Taxpayers Right-to-Know, what we’ve talked about year after year. It’s obviously passed–$20 million was given to OMB to go through the implementation. They received that funding. They’ve said they’re doing pilot programs. They’ve also said they’re coordinating with you on the process. Tell me how it’s going for Taxpayers Right-to-Know. They have the funding. They have the law. What’s actually happening?
Dodaro: Their current plan right now is to create an inter-agency working group to leverage additional resources needed and to get buy-in from the agencies because they’re going to need to have to do that. And they’re going to deploy resources this summer and make a major push to try to begin developing an inventory and having the pilot. So I’m encouraged by that. It’s taken them a while to get to this point, so it may put them at a disadvantage in meeting the 2025 date that’s been established.
Lankford: Let’s try anyway.
On GAO’s new style guide advocating “inclusivity”
Lankford: GAO, it’s my understanding, has also put out a new style guide for language in it. And I want to just bring this up. We can have a longer conversation on this as well, but the style guide is trying to be more inclusive in the language. I prefer to use the term ‘respectful’ in the language, rather than ‘inclusive,’ and let me give you a reason why. In the style guide, it tells folks at GAO, when you’re using terminology like ‘male’ and ‘female’ that an agency uses or that’s written in a law, GAO should state the source to not give the impression that GAO endorses ‘male’ and ‘female.’
I’m not sure that’s a good idea because if we’re back to be not offensive, we need to not be offensive to every body in it, and there are several other things. Taking out terms like ‘manmade’ or ‘manpower’ or ‘unmanned’ or not using the term ‘policeman.’ Not talking about a person whose gender identity doesn’t align with their sex assigned at birth implies a larger, not only political issue, but a societal issue as well…I really need GAO to stay out of cultural battles and to definitely not say, if Congress writes a law that says ‘male’ and ‘female,’ GAO should basically apologize for it and say, ‘Hey, their word, not ours.’ There are some concerns that are in this…we need GAO to stay GAO…