Thursday morning federal headlines – Feb. 14, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • A new permanent Senate panel will monitor spending at every federal agency. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), a former auditor, said any federal employee or contractor who wastes taxpayer money or acts inappropriately will have to answer to the committee. The Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight will also oversee financial transparency and improper payments. It is one of several in the reorganized Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont). will oversee another panel on efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs and the federal workforce. The entire committee will tackle issues facing the Postal Service, Census and the National Archives. (Office of Sen. McCaskill)
  • The IRS received fewer whistleblower tips about tax offenders who owe at least $2 million.The agency said 332 people approached the whistleblower office last year, down from a high of 472 in 2009. It’s alarming to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the program’s most passionate watchdogs. He said proposed regulations could make a bad situation worse. Already, the delay in awards and the way the IRS treats whistleblowers are turn offs, he said. The whistleblower office responded that it takes years to analyze, investigate, audit and collect proceeds in the cases and the more money owed, the longer it takes. (Office of Sen. Grassley)
  • The government has a credibility problem and the White House wants to fix it as data from agency accounting systems never seems to match information at Agency finance workers can expect new guidance in the coming weeks from the Office of Management and Budget. It will require them to match internal data with OMB Controller Danny Werfel said the goal is to improve the reliability of the public-facing website.(OMB blog)
  • The House Rules Committee voted to fast-track legislation extending the pay freeze for federal employees through the end of the fiscal year. Under a White House executive order, federal workers are supposed to receive a 0.5 percent pay increase in March. The committee’s measure, which was introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), would block that raise, resulting in a three-year pay freeze for federal employees. However, feds would still be eligible for step increases and promotions. The committee voted to send the bill straight to the House floor for a vote. (Federal News Radio)
  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has predicted a concerning period of furloughs if sequestration occurs March 1. She said law enforcement officers would be forced to take off 14 days. In addition, the department would undergo a general reduction in force. Napolitano outlined the sequester scenario in a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The letter was posted by the National Treasury Employees Union on its website. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • Employees of one company played games, watched movies and twiddled their thumbs all while being paid with stimulus dollars. LG Chem Michigan received $150 million in Recovery Act money but the company has little to show for it, according to an investigation by the Energy Department Inspector General. The IG was tipped off by a whistleblower that the company, which was supposed to build a factory to produce car batteries, had only managed to build some samples and didn’t generate any commercial sales in three years, the IG found. Plus, some employees had little to do while being paid with public money. LG Chem has spent more than 90 percent of its federal funds. (The Washington Times)
  • The Food and Drug Administration said there are 117 drug shortages and it’s asking for fresh ideas for combating the number. The agency requested public comments as it drafts a strategy. FDA said it’s hard to predict which drugs might run out and when. It also doesn’t have the money to pay manufacturers to ramp up production and can’t guarantee that the drugs would be bought. So FDA wants to know what other incentives it could offer, how it can better communicate with stakeholders and better work with other agencies. (FDA blog)