Remarks Announcing the Intention To Nominate Charles A. Bowsher To Be Comptroller General of the United States

July 9, 1981

The President. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, Members of the Congress who are here with us today, and our former Comptroller General, Elmer Staats -- retired recently:

The Comptroller General holds a unique and critically important post in the Federal Government. His term of office is 15 years, and he's charged with overseeing the legal, accounting, and auditing functions of the General Accounting Office, which is the right arm of the Congress.

It's obvious that in this post a strong and effective leader can have an enduring impact on our political institutions. Such a leader can do much to restore the faith of the people in the integrity and efficiency of government. This is one of the most important appointments that I shall make as President, and that's why I'm especially pleased to announce today the appointment of Charles M. Bowsher as Comptroller General.

Mr. Bowsher is uniquely qualified for this position. He has served in the Pentagon as an Assistant Secretary of Navy for Financial Management, as a managing partner of Arthur Andersen, and an official of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He has spent the last decade working with and advising government leaders on financial and management problems. Mr. Bowsher's specialty has been financial systems in the Federal Government. He has supervised several notable studies in this area, including one comprehensive survey of Federal financial reporting. In addition, Mr. Bowsher has worked closely with several committees of the Congress and served on advisory boards of departments in the Federal Government too numerous to mention.

Mr. Bowsher, in short, has the expertise of an insider with the perspective of an outsider. He will need these qualities in great abundance. The problem of waste and fraud in the Federal Government is, as I said in my first speech to the Congress, an unrelenting national scandal. This administration has already taken action to deal with this problem. We'll continue to move methodically, but vigorously, in this area.

We've chosen our Inspectors General with deliberate speed and in consultation with the Congress. Our Council on Integrity and Efficiency at OMB, which coordinates the activities of our Inspectors General, is the major innovation, and its work is now underway.

By the way, I thought some of you would like to know that each week the desk officers at the Office of Management and Budget submit reports on recent government actions in the area of waste and fraud. During only one week last month, these reports showed projections of between $270,000 and $400,000 in questionable payments in one student assistance program; $36 million in bloated rental costs for Federal agencies; and more than $249,000 in invalid welfare payment claims. In the criminal area, the Project Match has produced indictments of 22 persons for allegedly defrauding the government of $100,000 in the Food Stamp program. In a Treasury sweep, three other persons were indicted in an alleged attempt to defraud the Customs Service of $1.6 million. And I want to stress to you -- these are only highlights from a single week's report.

So, Chuck, it's clear that your work is cut out for you. You'll have to be practical. You'll have to work in harmony with the branches and agencies of the Federal Government. But at the same time, I hope you never lose that sense of indignation that any private citizen feels at the spectacle of waste and fraud in the Federal Government.

You'll need the support of those of us who are here today. The Congress must give you the resources you need; the executive branch must cooperate and respond to your requests. Nothing has disturbed me more than the failure of some Federal agencies to enact fiscal reforms recommended in the General Accounting Office audits. If you have difficulties here, believe me, I'll want to know about it.

A word of gratitude is also in order to Congressman Jack Brooks and Senator Roth and Speaker O'Neill and these others on the congressional commission who worked so diligently to find a suitable candidate for this position.

When Lincoln Steffens wrote ``The Shame of the Cities'' earlier in this century, political power was centered in the big city political machines, many of which were corrupt. Today that locus of power -- with the staggering increase in Federal expenditures during the past two decades -- has moved to the national government. Waste, fraud, corruption, and abuse are severe problems. All of us in government have a moral responsibility to meet them head on.

I believe that today's appointment is a major step in fulfilling our responsibility. Comptroller General Bowsher has not only my congratulations but my pledge of wholehearted support.

Mr. Bowsher. Thank you very much, Mr. President, and I want to thank also the congressional leaders here today that sent my nomination to you, Mr. President. And I hope that I can carry on the fine tradition that my predecessor Elmer Staats performed as a great Comptroller General for 15 years, just prior to stepping down this past March.

It's a great challenge to work and to try to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in the government, and that's what I dedicate myself to today. And as soon as I'm through with the confirmation process, I would then be happy to take substantive questions, but at this time I would like to beg off until we get through the confirmation process.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.