Who's watching? 10 agencies lack permanent IG.
Inspectors general fulfill a critical role in monitoring agency operations, but at least 10 agencies have had unfilled vacancies in that office for months, or even years. Four have been without a permanent IG for more than 1,000 days.
Research by the Project on Government Oversight reveals that the departments of State, Interior and Labor and the Corporation for National & Community Service top the list of agencies that have gone without an IG the longest. State’s IG vacancy dates back to Jan. 16, 2008 – more than four years. Interior hasn’t had a consistent, permanent IG for 1,143 days, or since Feb. 23, 2009. And last time Labor had a permanent IG was July 13, 2009, nearly three years ago.
Among that quartet, only CNCS has currently a nominee in place for the IG role; however, it’s been more than 140 days since President Barack Obama on Nov. 15, 2011 tapped Deborah Jeffrey for that position. Similarly, the Homeland Security Department’s IG-to-be, Roslyn A. Mazer, was nominated 265 days ago, on July 21, 2011.
As the stewards of good government, IGs conduct independent reviews and audits of agency activity. The president appoints cabinet-level IGs whom the Senate then confirms. Others IGs are designated by their respective agency heads.
Once an IG has been nominated, it takes an average of 140 days to confirm him or her. “It’s a relatively quick process – not lightning quick but certainly quicker than 1,500 days,” said POGO investigator Jake Wiens.
Not having a permanent IG doesn’t necessarily equal complete lack of oversight. Some agencies have acting or temporary IGs or directors of investigations and other staff. But having a permanent IG, particularly one that requires confirmation, Wiens said, adds to the credibility expected by the public, stakeholders and Congress.
The best IGs also try to figure out what the biggest challenges are for the agency and then focus audits and investigations on their findings, which oftentimes is hard to do without a permanent IG, Wiens said.
Overall, the IG vacancy issue is not so much an issue tied to the Senate blocking nominations but more the lack of actual nominations from the administration or agency’s side, he explained.
“[Agencies] may say otherwise, but judging by their actions, this doesn’t seem to be a priority at all -- something they don’t care to do,” Wiens added.
To read POGO's list of agencies that lack a permanent IG, click here.
Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.