With few answers yet as to why a group of IT aides were fired by House Democratic lawmakers in 2017, a U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a series of plans designed to tighten internal procedures for internet technology workers who have 'privileged access' to the House computer network, focusing on those who work for multiple members of Congress.
"It's important that we actually get this right," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who led a task force that looked at how to more closely monitor part-time workers known on Capitol Hill "shared employees."
Under the plan, House officials would get 30 days to report back on how they would implement the changes, which Davis said would include 'a much needed background check system.'
"It will strengthen the regulations associated with individuals known as 'shared employees,' who are employed by three or more offices," said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the Chairman of the House Administration Committee.
During the committee's meeting on Wednesday, there was never a mention of the name of Imran Awan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has become the focus of press allegations that he - and his relatives - may have compromised information on the House computer system, while working for several dozen House Democratic offices over a number of years.
No official explanation has been given as yet - by lawmakers or House officials - as to why Awan, his wife, and a handful of their relatives were suddenly terminated, and while no charges have been filed, it was clear from the proposed policy changes advanced on Wednesday that lawmakers believe tighter controls are needed for the future.
The new proposals for U.S. House employees would include:
+ A requirement for background checks "as a condition of privileged access" to the network not only for IT workers, but also for other 'shared employees' who do budget, payroll or other financial work for a lawmaker.
+ Setting up a task force to routinely review polices related to IT workers employed by multiple members of Congress.
+ Develop a new employee ID badge which clearly identifies 'shared employees' who are doing work on Capitol Hill.
+ Make it easier to block access for those workers - not only to the Congressional IT network - but also limit physical access for them if there are issues with the employees.
+ Not allow shared employees to also be engaged in an outside business activity which sells/leases/provides goods or services to any House office.
The changes were approved with little debate in an eleven minute meeting of the House Administration Committee. There were no direct references made to the Awan investigation, and no hints at any further developments in the probe of why Awan, his wife, and relatives were fired in February and March of 2017.
As of now, no charges have been filed for any wrongdoing involving the House IT system, though Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, face federal bank fraud charges involving a home equity loan.
U.S. Capitol Police have refused to make any detailed comments on the investigation into the IT matter.