04/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Mystery of the Disappearance of the Bayh Amendment

While much attention is focused on the disappearance of the Wyden-Snowe Amendment (see here and here) that could have prevented $165 million of unnecessary bonuses to AIG management, much of the media has not examined the disappearance of the Bayh amendment (see here and here) on which I have written previously (see here and here). The two situations are parallel and pinpoint the near-breakdown of oversight, exacerbated by some gate-keepers themselves.

While in the case of the Wyden-Snowe Amendment there at least was a House-Senate Conference where someone took out the Amendment passed by the Senate, the Bayh Amendment was taken out by Senate staffers even in the situation where there was no House-Senate Conference. A senior US Senator told me directly that many of his Amendments that he has got passed by the US Senate were taken out in the name of "House-Senate Conference" and a list of all such amendments passed by the Senate and then "dropped in Conference" would undoubtedly be of great interest to the public.

The consequence of the disappearance of the Bayh Amendment is that over a year later there still has been no General Accountability Office (GAO) study on waste and abuses at the lender. In an apparent bid to save face over the disappearance of his Amendment, Senator Bayh sent a letter in April 2008 to the GAO requesting the study and it was co-signed by Senators Leahy and Lugar. The triumvirate comprise among the top notches of US congressional oversight over multilateral institutions. Now in 2009, Senator Leahy's office helpfully suggested that it should be Senator Bayh who should comment on the GAO's failure to even begin a study over a year after the Bayh amendment was passed by the Senate, and Senator Bayh's office maintained an embarrassed silence as did Senator Lugar's. Sources have indicated to me that the multilateral lender has thrown immunity at the GAO (see here and here and here), thereby preventing the GAO from being able to begin work, while the GAO's media relations office has been claiming that it is the shortage of resources that is preventing the start of the study. Meanwhile a billion dollars each year in 2007, 2008, 2009 has been sent by the US Congress to the World Bank and another billion is now under discussion for 2010. Further, Robert Zoellick, current Bank president, has called for a multi-billion dollar fund and is reportedly seeking an additional $6 billion from the US Congress. So much for "oversight"-as-usual (see here and here and here).

In addition to solving the mystery of who took out the Bayh amendment, the way forward could include for the US Senate to pass the Bayh amendment again and ensure that it is not taken out yet again from the Appropriations bill of 2010 under discussion now.