NOVEMBER 13, 2007
Amid scandals within the inspector general offices of various government agencies, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has introduced much-needed legislation to strengthen the watchdogs charged with routing out federal government waste, fraud and corruption.
A 1978 law requires that inspector generals act independently when they investigate their respective federal agencies yet a dozen have failed to do that recently and are currently under investigation themselves. There are 64 Offices of Inspector Generals and, although they report to Congress, each head is appointed by the president.
Former and current employees allege that the watchdogs work too closely with the leaders of the agencies they investigate and that many have succumbed to political pressure from the Bush Administration. Some inspector generals say they have been intimidated by high-ranking officials at the agencies they inspect.
Among the embattled is the State Department Inspector General, Howard Krongard, who will testify this week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Seven former and current officials say that Krongard’s political affinity with the Bush Administration has blinded his independence and led him to halt crucial waste and fraud investigations and actually censor damaging reports.
In a highly unusual move last month, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ordered an internal investigation of the agency’s inspector general for issuing a series of scathing reports critical of top CIA officials. The move was seen as retaliatory against an agency watchdog that has scrutinized top figures and key operatives.
In an effort to restore independence, the aforementioned Senate bill would require that Congress be notified of any proposed removal of an inspector general and that a council be established to review allegations of wrongdoing by inspectors. Similar bipartisan legislation has already been overwhelmingly approved in the House.
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