Statement of Nikki L. Tinsley
for Confirmation as Inspector General
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
before the
Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
July 15, 1998

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.

It is a great honor to be here today as the President's nominee to be Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency. I would like to thank the Committee for considering my nomination expeditiously as well as Administrator Browner for her expression of confidence. If confirmed, I would welcome this opportunity to serve the Administration, the Congress, and the American people to the best of my ability.

The Inspector General position in a large Federal agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency is a very important and challenging one. EPA has an annual budget of over $7 billion, with more than one half devoted to environmental activities provided by entities outside the federal government; primarily state, local, and Tribal governments. The American people expect their tax dollars committed to environmental programs to be wisely spent and produce results which protect the environment and health of our country.

EPA's Office of Inspector General has an impressive track record which, if confirmed, I will seek to maintain and build upon. Over the past 25 years, it has reviewed $55 billion in grants to communities to build waste water treatment plants, and recovered more than a billion dollars for additional plant construction. Audit and investigative efforts directed at EPA contracts have improved the Agency's oversight program and resulted in a number of administrative and judicial actions against individuals and companies which have defrauded the taxpayer. With the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act, EPA is developing accountability systems that link its activities to achieving environmental goals. In response, the

Office of Inspector General has turned its focus to environmental results, evaluating the Agency's air, water, superfund, hazardous waste, and enforcement programs to ensure that they are delivering the environmental and health protection that the Congress and the Administration intend. At the same time, Office of Inspector General staff continue to work closely with the Agency to improve its fiscal accountability.

This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the legislation establishing Inspectors General. Inspectors General play a unique role in government: charged by Congress to independently and objectively audit and investigate their agency's activities; to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse; and to keep the Agency head and the Congress fully informed of problems and deficiencies in Agency activities.

To be most successful, I believe an Inspector General should serve as a force for positive change. The Inspector General should work constructively with the Agency and its partners and strive for a relationship built upon mutual respect and trust. At the same time, the Inspector General must be independent and objective, willing to make fair-but-tough, calls on Agency activities. Just as the Inspector General should maintain an open line of communication with the Administrator and Deputy Administrator; the Inspector General must have that same open line of communication with the Congress. Finally, the Inspector General is under an absolute obligation to report to the Congress when significant problems are not being corrected. I believe Administrator Browner shares this view and am confident that, if confirmed, the Office of Inspector General staff and I would continue to have the good and open working relationship we have had in the past with both the Administrator and the Congress.

My career in public service has allowed me to gain a broad knowledge of government programs and operations by having worked in several different departments including the US General Accounting Office, the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. My background, as a licensed Certified Public Accountant, experienced in auditing government and industry along with my experience serving as EPA's Deputy Inspector General and Acting Inspector General will help me to address the challenges I will face if confirmed.

My experiences as an auditor and as a senior manager in EPA's Office of Inspector General have strengthened my commitment to the principles of independence and objectivity. I have faced the challenges associated with reporting audit and investigative findings that were unexpected and unpopular. And, I have obtained agreement from Agency managers to address and correct problems, because my work and that of the organizations I have represented has been factual and nonpartisan.

Should I be confirmed, I am committed to building on the impressive accomplishments of EPA's Office of Inspector General staff. I look forward to working with the Administrator, this Committee and other members of Congress, and the broad constituencies and taxpayers served by EPA, to help ensure that the Agency delivers the maximum in environmental and health benefits to the public. Thank you for this opportunity to address you. I will be happy to respond to any questions you and other members of the committee have.