Harris Remarks at FY24 Oversight Hearing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (As Prepared)

Mar 7, 2023

The Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will come to order. 

I want to welcome everyone to our first Subcommittee hearing of the 118th Congress with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General. I am pleased to be joined today by the Subcommittee’s distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Bishop, and other Members on the Subcommittee as we begin the fiscal year 2024 process.  

I want to welcome our witnesses today:

  • Phyllis Fong, Inspector General, who is accompanied by:
  • Steve Rickrode, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audit;
  • Jenny Rone, Assistant Inspector General for Analytics and Innovation; and,
  • Kevin Tyrrell, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations.

Ms. Fong, it is good to see you again, and I look forward to hearing your testimony today.

We appreciate the crucial independent oversight your agency performs over all USDA programs and operations. Given the unprecedented increases in funding USDA has received over the last several years, this oversight is critical.

Since the start of the pandemic USDA has spent billions of dollars to expand programs and initiatives that have not always been authorized by Congress. Your agency serves as an important check over USDA actions and decisions. OIG’s work ensures that USDA is held accountable to Congress and the American taxpayers.

I appreciate the oversight work your agency has done regarding USDA’s COVID funding, and I am sure this subcommittee will inquire about oversight plans for the funds provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act later this morning.

These two laws provided over $52 billion in additional dollars to USDA and monitoring these funds is critical to prevent fraud. I look forward to hearing more about your agency’s oversight plans and needs to be able to effectively monitor these funds.

While I remain concerned about USDA’s spending, I have become increasingly concerned that the Department has been stretching its authorities beyond Congressional authorization or intent, which makes your agency’s work even more important to maintain program integrity throughout USDA.

Again, I appreciate you being with us and look forward to today’s hearing. I would also like to remind everyone that we will abide by the five-minute rule for questions. Please make sure to push the “talk” button on your microphone before AND after speaking.

 I’ll now turn to my colleague Mr. Bishop for his opening remarks.

Thank you, Mr. Bishop. I’d now like to recognize Ms. Fong for her opening statement.