Unresolved Internal Investigations at DHS: Oversight of Investigation Management in the Office of the DHS IG
10:00am in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
The purpose of today’s hearing is to conduct oversight of the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and its management of investigative cases. The Department of Homeland Security is the third-largest department in the Federal Government, and has the important mission of ensuring the United States is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other threats. Because of the importance of DHS’s mission, it is crucial that it have a fully capable Inspector General to provide oversight and accountability.
Over the past few years, DHS OIG has had thousands of open investigations that must be properly managed and resolved. Our hearing today will review the number of open cases at DHS OIG, as well as its recent decision to transfer cases back to the agency to be investigated.
As of March 2012, DHS OIG had 2,361 open investigatory cases. In its latest Semiannual Report to Congress, which covered a six-month period between October 2010 and March 2012, DHS OIG closed 730 cases. This is only 31 percent of DHS OIG’s open cases. Since 2009, DHS OIG’s number of open cases has never dropped below 2,000, while the number of cases closed has averaged only 566 cases per 6-month reporting period.
In April, DHS OIG announced that it would transfer cases of misconduct involving employees at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection back to the agencies for processing. In order to make sure that allegations of misconduct were fully investigated in a timely manner, about 370 cases were transferred to ICE and CBP in April, and another 280 were transferred in June.
While transferring OIG’s casework may help to ensure investigations are resolved more quickly, this process must be carefully overseen. Allowing ICE and CBP to investigate their own misconduct could create a conflict of interest unless proper internal controls are maintained. Additionally, these transfers have resulted in a 68 percent increase in cases at ICE’s and CBP’s internal affairs offices. If ICE and CBP do not have sufficient resources to manage these cases, it could result in wrongdoing going uninvestigated.
Our hearing today will review how ICE and CBP are managing these cases. It will also focus on DHS OIG’s relationship with components at DHS, and how it can better collaborate with DHS to investigate cases. In 2010, DHS OIG wrote that its relationship with the agency was “a long standing problem” due to resistance and lack of cooperation with OIG investigations. Today, we will learn more about that relationship and examine ways to improve collaboration in the future.
The United States is unique in the important role Inspectors General have in our government. The Inspector General Act of 1978 established IGs to act as independent watchdogs over federal departments and agencies. Today, IGs are on the front lines of preventing waste, fraud, and abuse across government. Their role directly benefits both Congress and taxpayers by creating a government that is more transparent and accountable.
In order to do their jobs well, IGs need to maintain strong accountability and integrity, while fostering a collaborative relationship with the agencies they oversee. DHS OIG has an extremely important task of overseeing an agency that protects our borders, guards against terrorism, and ensures the security of our country. I commend OIG for its efforts, and look forward to hearing from all of our expert witnesses about how to improve investigations and oversight at DHS.