Where have all the federal watchdogs gone?

The State, Interior, Labor and Justice departments have gone without a permanent inspector general for a year or longer, according to a new website created by the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group.

The length of vacancies at those departmental Offices of Inspector General ranges from 376 days at Justice, to 940 days at Labor, 1080 days at Interior and 1,484 days at the State department, which is the longest period of vacancy.

Eight other federal agencies, including the Defense and Homeland Security departments, have been without permanent inspectors general for a year or less.

Inspectors general are independent investigators and auditors that identify wasteful practices, frauds and other misconduct.

As of Feb. 8, 12 agencies were without a permanent inspector general, out of the 73 federal IG offices set up by Congress. Approximately half require presidential nominations, while the remainder require that the agency appoint the inspector general.

Although federal agencies generally have named acting inspectors general to the vacant positions, having those positions be permanent is important for accountability, the group said.

“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,” POGO said in a statement. “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, whistle blowers, and the public—that the OIG is truly independent and that its investigations and audits are accurate and credible."

In addition, a permanent inspector general has a greater ability to set a long term strategic plan, the group said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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