Issa demands IGs keep reform committee informed

In a letter to inspectors general across government, the chairman of the House’s oversight panel told the IGs its their duty to keep him filled in on their serious investigations—a complaint he has made several times during hearings.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, like the rest of Congress, relies on the community of inspectors general to bring matters to our attention that may require additional oversight or investigation,” Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote Aug. 3. He sent the letter to 73 IGs of Cabinet-level departments, various agencies and commissions, and Amtrak.

Issa added that, if the General Services Administration IG Brian Miller had informed him of his investigation into the 2010 Western Regions Conference, Congress would have had an opportunity to reconsider its appropriations for the agency.

“As of April 2, 2012, agency leadership had been aware of the IG’s investigation for nearly a year. The White House knew of the IG’s investigation as early as May 2011. Meanwhile, Congress remained in the dark,” Issa wrote in the letter.

The letter hammers home his frustrations. In April, Issa scolded Miller during the first hearing on the GSA Las Vegas conference scandal.

“It is highly unusual for us not to receive a heads-up much sooner,” Issa told Miller.

Miller quickly acknowledged that his office should have told the oversight committee about the report, and not let the chairman learn about it so late in the process.

“I’m receiving your message that we need to come to you sooner, much sooner,” Miller replied.

This demand for information isn't just Issa's pet peeve. The law requires IGs to keep the head of their agency and Congress fully informed of investigations into fraud and abuses, a fact Issa pointed out.

“Rather than use the specter of communication with Congress for leverage, inspectors general should proactively provide information directly with members of Congress, its committees and subcommittees, congressional staff, and other stakeholders,” Issa wrote.

Specifically, the relevant section of the IG Act of 1978 states that the IGs duties include:

To keep the head of such establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed, by means of the reports required by section 5 and otherwise, concerning fraud and other serious problems, abuses, and deficiencies relating to the administration of programs and operations administered or financed by such establishment, to recommend corrective action concerning such problems, abuses, and deficiencies, and to report on the progress made in implementing such corrective action.

After citing law, Issa asked the IGs to give their interpretation of it. In a hearing in May, Issa had given his interpretation of the law.

“It would be my new interpretation that anything that you choose—or believe you have to tell an agency head formally or informally because you believe it is significant—triggers that requirement that you also tell us in due course,” Issa said.

In his letter, Issa also asked the IGs to describe any serious or flagrant problems they've dealt with since Jan. 1, 2009 that were not reported to Congress. He also asked if they had issued any seven-day letters to their agency since 2009. An IG can use a seven-day letter as a last resort to attempt to force appropriate action by the agency.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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