While the Obama Administration scrambles to respond to a host of multi-agency scandals, five cabinet level agencies are still without Inspector Generals. These agencies are the Departments of State, Interior, Labor, Defense, and Homeland Security. The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Agency for International Development (USAID) are also lacking IG’s.
“The reason that’s significant is because there are specific independent capacities that an appointed and confirmed IG has that somebody who has not been confirmed does not have,” Americans for Limited Government spokesman Richard Manning told Breitbart News. “They don’t have the same flexibility,” he explained.
An Inspector General functions as an agency’s independent auditor or ombudsman. If waste, abuse, or corruption is occurring, federal employees should be able to report such instances to their department’s IG without fear of retribution. Acting IG’s or Deputy IG’s do not have the same power and job security that an appointed and confirmed Inspector General has. Manning says that an acting IG cannot possibly do the job the way a regular IG would, specifically when he or she is thinking about the possibility of being appointed and confirmed as an IG later on.
“In the back of [an acting IG’s] mind, he or she is thinking, ‘Gee, if I don’t get this the right way I am not going to get the job.’ So it’s just normal, that once you are firmly ensconced in the job, you are able to do it independently,” he said. Manning added, “That’s the whole world of Inspector Generals, regardless of administrations and regardless of politics.”
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) concurs with Manning. According to their website:
OIGs are best positioned to be effective when led by a highly qualified permanent IG, rather than an acting official or no IG at all. Permanent IGs undergo significant vetting–especially the IGs that require Senate confirmation–before taking their position. That vetting process helps to instill confidence among OIG stakeholders–Congress, agency officials, whistleblowers, and the public–that the OIG is truly independent and that its investigations and audits are accurate and credible.
In addition, a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.”
The long absence of IG’s in key agencies could be a reason why whistleblowers are hesitant to step forward and talk to Congress about what they may know about such events like the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As a result, some whistleblowers within agencies without IG’s find they have little recourse but to risk their jobs and personal freedom by leaking sensitive information to the media.
The State Department’s IG position has remained vacant since January 16, 2008. That IG position has been open longer than any other vacant OIG position. The State Department, without an IG, investigated its own actions via the Accountability Review Board (ARB) after the attack in Benghazi.
However, ARB’s, according to statutory state process, are not permitted to investigate the Secretary of State. As a result, then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton was not questioned for the ARB report on the terrorist attacks; the the State Department’s Office of Inspector General, headed up by a Deputy Inspector General, is now looking into how the ARB report was put together.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has not had an IG since Gordon S. Heddell departed the office on December 24, 2011. Heddell had previously served as the Acting IG in July of 2008; he was later appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to head the OIG in July of 2009.
Embattled Attorney General Eric Holder recently praised the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General’s “ability to protect the safety and the sacred rights” of Americans. Holder is currently facing congressional inquiries into whether he committed perjury during Congressional testimony over his department’s monitoring of reporters’ emails and phone records.
The DOJ’s IG, Michael Horowitz, was finally sworn into his position on April 16, 2012. His position was vacant for more than a year prior to his confirmation. More importantly, the Justice Department’s IG position remained vacant at the height of the Justice Department’s own Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.