Democrats charge Bush politicized IG posts

Although inspectors general are supposed to be nonpartisan and impartial, President Bush has repeatedly chosen individuals with Republican

political backgrounds, according to a report prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

More than half of the inspectors general appointed by Bush in his first term had made contributions to his campaign or other Republican candidates, while only 25 percent of IGs appointed by President Clinton had made any federal campaign contributions, according to a report by the Minority Staff Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee.

After the report was released, Waxman, the committee's ranking Democrat, called for retaining the independence of IGs.

"Inspectors general serve a crucial oversight function within government agencies," Waxman said. "Unfortunately, IG appointments have been increasingly politicized under President Bush. He has appointed IGs with primarily political rather than nonpartisan auditing experience. New efforts are needed to ensure that inspectors general retain their independence."

Now that this information is publicly available, senators will think twice when they review IG appointments, according to officials in Waxman's office. His recommendation is to first look to the Inspector General Act of 1978 for guidance and then look to see what else can be done.

To ensure the independence and objectivity of IGs, the act mandates that the president appoint IGs "without regard to political affiliation" and "solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability" in fields such as accounting, auditing, financial analysis or investigations.

According to the report, prior political connections do not mean that an individual appointed as an IG will act unfairly. However, the report does state that some IGs made questionable decisions, such as not releasing an audit of a Florida pension system until after Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election in 2002.

Another IG concluded that widely publicized abuses at an Iraqi prison run by the Army were the fault of a few individuals rather than top military officials.

Dave McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, called this a very sensitive report.

"If anything, certainly the IG position itself should not be a politicized position," McClure said. "Whether that's happening or not, I don't know. The IG position was created to be an independent and objective review."

Report findings

According to a report prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.):

* More than one-third of the inspectors general appointed by President Bush worked in Republican administrations prior to their appointments as IGs.

* 64 percent of the IGs had held a Republican political job.

* Only 18 percent of Bush€s appointments had previous audit experience, compared to 66 percent of Clinton€s appointments.

The report makes the following recommendations on selecting IGs:

* Appoint IGs solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability.

* Choose IGs from fields such as accounting, auditing, financial analysis or investigations.

* Appoint IGs without political ties to preserve their independence, as mandated by the Inspector General Act of 1978.

— Aliya Sternstein

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