The Wall Street journal reports that thUS House Passes Legislation To Boost TARP Oversight:
The House of Representatives voted 423-0 to give Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky broader authority to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The measure would allow agents of the TARP watchdog to carry firearms, allows the office to hire retired U.S. government workers without them losing their pensions, and would give Barofsky the ability to more quickly hire new employees for the relatively new office.
With the $700 billion financial rescue a source of constant scrutiny, lawmakers have pushed to give Barofsky and other TARP oversight bodies more ability to keep track of the changing program. The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday would require Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to address any problems identified by Barofsky's office, or explain to Congress why the suggestions are being ignored.
SIGTARP spokeswoman Kristine Belisle said in an email that the legislation "will help us staff up quickly with the qualified auditors and investigators that we need to fulfill our vital mission of protecting the American taxpayer."
From the Walz congressional office:
Walz Votes to Strengthen Oversight of Wall Street Bailout
Calls for Investigation into AIG Using Taxpayer Money to Pay Goldman Sachs
(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, Congressman Tim Walz voted to strengthen oversight and accountability of the Wall Street bailout, officially known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) by broadening the authority of the Special Inspector General (SIG). Separately, Walz joined his colleagues today in requesting that the SIG investigate counterparty payments made by AIG to investment firms such as Goldman Sachs.
“This increased transparency should have been in the original Wall Street bailout,” said Walz, who voted three times against the Wall Street bailout partly because it lacked tough transparency and accountability measures. “The responsible thing to do at this point is to provide for as much transparency as possible in how taxpayer’s money is being spent in this program via increased oversight by the Inspector General.”
“Strengthening oversight of the Wall Street Bailout is critical at this point to making sure that taxpayers’ funds are being protected,” said Walz. “Americans have the right to know how their money is being spent. Financial firms like AIG who received Wall Street bailout funds must be accountable to the American people on how they’re using our tax money to get credit flowing to businesses and families, and to strengthen our economy. Giving the Inspector General more authority will help accelerate the transparency process.”
The bill significantly broadens the authority of the Special Inspector General (SIG) to oversee the financial rescue program enacted last fall by the Bush Administration by
· allowing the SIG to audit or investigate any action taken under the financial rescue law;
· giving the SIG authority to hire more auditors and investigators quickly;
· requiring Treasury to explain why any recommendations by the SIG are not followed; and
· mandating the SIG to report to Congress by September 2009 on how recipients of TARP funds are spending American taxpayer dollars.
Walz also joined his colleagues in signing on to a letter today that requests the SIG to investigate how AIG used taxpayer money to make counterparty payments to investment firms. On March 15, 2009 AIG announced it had made counterparty payments to firms including foreign companies and Goldman Sachs, which had previously stated it had no material exposure to AIG. “If Goldman Sachs said that they had no material exposure to AIG, then why did AIG give them $13 billion of our tax money?” Walz asked. Walz and his colleagues believe it is imperative that the Inspector General investigate how taxpayers’ funds were used by AIG’s and whether these counterparty payments were in the best interest of the taxpayers and long-term economic stability.