BY RICK MANNING | MAY 7, 2014
Inspector General shock
The integrity of the government watchdog system has been called into question by the revelation that the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security bowed to political pressure within the Obama Administration by delaying and withholding information on three separate reports.
The Office of the Inspector General is an independent watchdog within each Department and Agency charged with the responsibility to investigate allegations of malfeasance and corruption. Recently, the Inspector General of the IRS uncovered and reported the finding that IRS employees had been illegally targeting tax exempt applications from conservative groups. That allegation led to congressional investigations and the resignation of Lois Lerner, the IRS' head of exempt organizations.
Americans for Limited Government's Nathan Mehrens warned back in July, 2011 about the danger of not having fully confirmed Inspectors General in place in every Agency and Department, and unfortunately the DHS revelations proved him to be prescient.
In a statement released in reaction to a Washington Post report on the DHS scandal, Mehrens reiterated the need for appointed and confirmed Inspectors General throughout the government:
"Today's revelation in the Washington Post that the acting Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security delayed and withheld information that was damaging to the Obama administration confirms our worst fears that the President's failure to fill IG positions damages the integrity of this important public watchdog function. The Inspector General of a Department is charged with protecting the public from government corruption, misspending and malfeasance independently of the political appointees who run the Department or Agency that they oversee.
"The fact that Obama Administration officials even dared to try to pressure an acting IG to skew his report shows a contempt for the watchdog process that is unparalleled. Congress needs to immediately eliminate the salary and pension for the acting IG who violated his public trust, and learn who in the Administration pressured this supposedly independent corruption investigator to violate his public trust. Whoever is involved in this manipulation of three separate IG reports should be immediately called to testify to learn if they were directed to do so by other political appointees.
"This report goes to the heart of the public's right to have an independent watchdog protecting them from abuse, and is why Americans for Limited Government has repeatedly called for the appointment of permanent IGs across the Administration. Currently, there are eight Inspectors General's offices that are being led by acting officials who, as was the case in the Department of Homeland Security, are subject to the additional pressure of seeking to please those they are overseeing as they seek appointment to the permanent position. Here is the list: www.ignet.gov/igs/homepage1.html.
The incredible aspect of the scandal at the Department of Homeland Security is that the former Acting head of the Inspectors General office was transferred from that post to another high paying career civil service job within the Department just days prior to his being scheduled to testify before a Senate Committee on the allegations of malfeasance. Upon the transfer, the Democratic Party controlled Senate Committee cancelled the scheduled hearing.
There is no excuse for political pressure to ever be applied to those who are charged with exposing waste, fraud and abuse in our federal government. While the former Acting IG should be held accountable for his failing to uphold the public trust, it is even more important to learn who within the Obama Administration directed the politically motivated delays and cover up.
Those involved in applying this political pressure are the ones who need to be forced to testify before Congress to determine if there is any White House involvement in this cover up scheme, or if it was the work of rogue political appointees.
Failure for Congress to step up and hold those responsible for impugning the integrity of the Office of Inspector General would create a permanent stain on the supposed impartiality of the Office's future findings. And that would be bad for both those accused, but also those exonerated of future public corruption charges.
Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Rick on twitter @rmanning957.