Thirteen inspectors general (IGs) described their struggles with the government agencies they oversee in letters made public this week by Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The two senators canvassed 69 IGs earlier this year asking whether they’ve run into problems in the course of their oversight.
“Inspectors General can’t conduct effective oversight of tax dollars and programs when the very agencies subject to the oversight impose delays, red tape, and roadblocks,” Grassley said. “To let this continue in the executive branch is letting the fox decide who gets in the henhouse.”
For instance, the Treasury Department’s IG, Eric Thorson, wrote in a September 10 letter that his office “is being denied unrestricted and unfettered access to information from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for use in investigations of possible fraud upon the OCC by failed financial institutions regulated by the OCC.” The OCC asserted the Right to Financial Privacy Act (RFPA) as justification for withholding info, according to Thorson. Thorson believes OCC is slanting its reading of the RFPA, and that it actually allows for Inspectors General to access this information. What it comes down to, according to Thorson, is OCC believes “it can determine the instances in which my office has investigative jurisdiction affecting OCC programs and operations.”
In another case, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), says the State Department has dragged its feet in responding to repeated SIGIR requests for contract data. As of June, the SIGIR has been waiting over eleven months for the State Department to provide “complete data on the cost of the contract for providing trainers for the Iraqi Police Training Program” run by DynCorp International.
“Good government starts with good oversight. When officials block investigations they do nothing more than protect the people and processes that waste billions of taxpayer dollars every year,” Coburn said.