Where Are All the Watchdogs? Addressing Inspector General Vacancies
9:30am in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
In 1978, the position of Inspectors General was established to promote efficiency and ensure that a threshold of accountability was integrated government-wide. The IGs are the American people’s front line of oversight of the Executive Branch. In FY2009 alone, their audits and investigations identified $43.3 billion in potential savings. Having a robust group of permanent inspectors general at the federal agencies is the best way to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse.
The Obama Administration has often proclaimed its commitment to transparency and accountability. That’s why it is so troubling that the President has allowed vacancies at several IG offices to linger for months, and in some cases years. Even more disturbing is the Administration’s willingness to demonstrate a pattern of hostility toward the inspector general community.
One of the President’s first actions on the IG front was to unlawfully remove IG Gerald Walpin from his post at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Not only did this termination appear to be retribution for Walpin’s investigations into a political ally of President Obama, but it violated the law requiring 30 days notice to Congress with explanation for the action.
In addition, despite calling for higher taxes and more government spending, this Administration has ignored thousands of IG recommendations that could result in saving tens of billions of taxpayer dollars every year.
This Administration’s failure to fill inspector general vacancies has weakened the effectiveness of the inspector general community, thus exposing American taxpayer dollars to waste, fraud, and abuse.
• There are currently ten vacant IG posts. Of those, eight are at agencies where the IG is presidentially appointed.
• Four IG posts have been vacant for more than 1,000 days.
• Five IG vacancies are at cabinet-level departments.
• The State Department has been without a permanent IG for more than four years.
This is unacceptable. IG vacancies at the State Department as well as at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are especially problematic because of their recent expanding responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When these positions are left vacant for extended periods of time, the intent of Congress is compromised. Temporary leadership is neither adequately independent nor well-positioned to make long-term decisions.
For example, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General’s investigation into Fast and Furious languished for months because the office lacked permanent leadership. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s recent confirmation, however, has renewed our hope that the Fast and Furious investigation will reach a thorough and timely conclusion.
With billions of dollars at stake, every Office of the Inspector General must act decisively to protect taxpayer dollars. Swift and decisive action requires the leadership of a permanent IG.
I look forward to hearing from the first panel today about the weaknesses that come from vacancies in the IG community, and from the second panel about what the Administration plans to do to fix the problem.