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Jun 25, 2009

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Robert

I would agree that the Journal's argument to abolish IGs is a stretch, but the two broader points are these - first, that the WH is systematically attempting to neuter the IGs by intimidation, and when that fails, removal. It goes beyond Walpin, although his case seems flagrant enough alone to warrant an inquiry. Neil Barofsky, the TARP IG, and Amtrak IG Fred Wiederhold (just resigned) have also seemingly encountered resistance in doing their duties, and found alarming irregularities. Where there is smoke, there is fire, or so you would think...

But to the second point, and that is that with MSM support, there's a great danger of this being swept under the rug. Go to Google today, and you'll see about 150x the references to Mark Sanford's scandal, as to the much more serious allegations of WH duplicity in their dealings with Mr. Walpin. I know sex sells, but I'm sure there wouldn't be that kind of discrepancy if the White House was still occupied by George Bush.

So back to the Journal's argument to abolish the IGs. Perhaps they have a point after all - if they have no power, are regularly abused by the WH, and can be fired at will, what value do they really provide?

Michael Lent

Your concerns re WSJ views are right. But the nagging--and growing--problem with IGs is that they tend to appear as a safety net for overseers and even the line executives and managers who are the subjects of IG fact-finding and analysis. Political and career officials are not sufficiently alert to problems, and they have less incentive than ever to discover and resolve them. There is little penalty for ignoring them as long as accountability is rarely made to stick. In other words, management doesn't do its own policing of policy and operations, but rather defers issues to the next crew and waits to see if the IG can come up with something. Meanwhile, IGs often play gotcha rather than examine systemic issues, and the lead time to issue results is far too long. Everyday IG work is fine and needs to be sustained, but the real problem we have is lack of energetic, non-bureaucratic leadership in the agencies.

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