Watchdogs assigned to root out fraud and corruption inside federal government agencies encounter so many barriers during their investigations that they’re calling on Congress to pass legislation that will guarantee the access they’re already supposed to have.
The cry comes on the heels of a new Justice Department restriction on information that its inspector general (IG) can access during agency probes. Remember that President Obama promised to run the most transparent administration in history yet the Department of Justice (DOJ), an extension of the executive office, is limiting what its watchdog can see during what’s supposed to be an independent investigation. This goes contrary to a 1978 law requiring that inspectors general act autonomously when they conduct probes of the federal agencies they’re assigned to keep in check.
This is hardly the case. In fact, Judicial Watch has reported for years about the obstacles that inspectors general have faced as they do their job to crack down on waste, fraud and corruption in government. There are 73 IGs and, although they report to Congress, each is appointed by the president. For years current and former employees at IG offices have alleged that the watchdogs work too closely with the leaders of the agencies they investigate and that many have succumbed to political pressure, in both Republican and Democrat administrations.
In fact, a few years ago a number of IGs came under fire and faced retaliation and scrutiny after exposing wrongdoing at the agencies they were charged with investigating. This led Congress to contemplate legislation to protect the watchdogs by, among other things, requiring the president to notify Congress 30 days before firing an inspector general to guard against terminations for political reasons. As is often the case in Washington, no action was taken to solve the matter so the problem persists.
Now IGs are calling on Congress to do its job and help. In a letter to lawmakers this month, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, which represents the nation’s IGs, asks that legislation be passed to guarantee their independence when conducting probes at federal agencies.
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