WASHINGTON— On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to provide much-needed oversight of the $2 billion Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revolving fund that federal agencies pay into for Human Resources services, including federal background checks.
H.R. 2860, the OPM IG Act, passed unanimously, and was written by Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and co-sponsored by Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-VA). Farenthold and Lynch are Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Oversight and Government Reform Federal Workforce Subcommittee.
“For many years, there have been increased referrals of alleged fraud within the revolving fund operations, including in the background investigations used to determine an individuals’ eligibility for a security clearance,” said Congressman Farenthold.
“That’s a big problem with serious national security implications. Weak federal background checks have led to events like the Navy Yard shooting and the leaking of sensitive information by Edward Snowden.”
Investigations have revealed a number of cases involving the falsification of background investigations, including reporting of investigations that never occurred, recording answers to questions that were never asked, and documents recording checks that were never conducted.
In June, OPM Inspector General (IG) Patrick McFarland testified before the Federal Workforce subcommittee, stating OPM’s revolving fund programs “have been operating in the shadows for far too long,” adding that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
“My bill will allow the OPM IG to use a portion the monies they already have to pay for related audit and investigative work,” continued Congressman Farenthold. “It will root out fraud within the background check systems, and increase the transparency and accountability of the federal government.”
The OPM revolving fund has not been audited since the 1990’s, despite internal requests for audits and investigations into alleged failure by senior officials to comply with federal contracting rules and reports of preferential treatment toward certain vendors.
H.R. 2860 specifically requires the OPM to budget up to .33% for internal investigations and requires audits of this fund by the OPM’s Inspector General.