JUNE 17, 2010
President Obama and his cabinet love to brag about the administration’s unprecedented transparency, but the reality is that numerous government agencies keep denying the investigative arm of Congress access to information essential to probes that help weed out corruption.
Among the key federal agencies that block Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators from obtaining information are the departments of Justice, Defense, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, according to the congressional newspaper that broke the story this week. This undoubtedly impedes the independent nonpartisan agency’s mission of ensuring federal government accountability.
Despite addressing the issue months ago, GAO investigators continue to encounter scores of delays and denials when they attempt to access information, according to the GAO’s comptroller general who complained about the matter in a letter to U.S. Senators this week. Some are longstanding procedures that for years have impeded access and others reflect “misinterpretations” of the GAO’s authorities, the letter says.
In other words many of the government agencies just flip the finger at the congressional watchdog, which advises lawmakers and the heads of executive agencies about making government more efficient, effective, ethical and responsive. For example, the GAO’s study on Medicare and Medicaid fraud has been indefinitely delayed because the Department of Health and Human Services refuses to turn over crucial information necessary to complete the probe. The health agency claims it’s not required to provide the data and has actively blocked the GAO’s access.
In another case, the GAO was delayed half a year while waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to deliver a 2009 report on the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The GAO also repeatedly encounters difficulty getting timely information on matters that should be readily available, according to the comptroller general. A big offender is the Department of Justice, which just a few months ago celebrated a “new era of transparency” at a
At the event, Attorney General Eric Holder touted his agency’s huge contribution to Obama’s Open Government Plan and praised the commander-in-chief’s unprecedented commitment to transparency and accountability. Las spring Holder issued official guidelines establishing a “criteria governing the presumption of disclosure” for his agency to comply with the “new era of open government.” More than a year later nothing has changed, even though Americans were told otherwise at Holder’s shindig a few months ago.
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