“Your first report is to amplify what you’ve found. That really defined what we would be,” Barofsky said. “There is always going to be tension between a good IG and the agency.”

Congress’s economic rescue plan, enacted in four bills during March and April, is circulating money into the economy that came to a near-standstill during the coronavirus lockdowns. The measures provide forgivable loans to small businesses, stimulus checks for individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, payments for health care providers, and money for the Federal Reserve to leverage and lend to businesses.

Some business leaders are wary that lawmakers will be politically motivated in their approach to oversight.

“There’s already growing concern that congressional oversight will in part focus on companies or sectors that various elected officials will view as unworthy of assistance, irrespective of whether they qualify under the terms of the programs in question,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce, said earlier this month at a hearing of a separate accountability committee made up of federal agency watchdogs.

The Congressional Oversight Commission is designed to be bipartisan, with two members already chosen by Republicans, two picked by Democrats, and a chairman still to be named jointly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Pelosi and McConnell have been unable to agree on the chairman for more than a month. Pelosi said last Thursday a choice would be announced “very soon,” though she also said the same thing in previous weeks.

Inspector General Firings
The congressional panel has published one report so far, mostly laying out targets for future work, and has another due Wednesday. But without a chairman or funds to hire staff, the group has largely been unable to focus on oversight, according to people familiar with the matter.

An earlier congressional oversight panel, during the response to the 2008 financial crisis, took at least several months to begin running smoothly, said Kenneth Troske, a member of the panel led by Warren before she became a senator. That panel ceased operating in 2011.

“There is no such thing as nonpartisan. It’s an inherent challenge of that type of work,” said Troske, now an economics professor at the University of Kentucky.

The third major oversight body -- the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee made up of federal agency inspectors general -- got a jolt in early April when Trump ousted Glenn Fine, the Pentagon watchdog who had been cast to lead it. It was the first of Trump’s five dismissals of inspectors general he considered insufficiently loyal.