The Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) just posted a new report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG). The report, titled “Recommended Practices of Office of Inspector General Hotlines,” is the product of an in-depth review of OIG Hotline operations by a CIGIE-initiated working group. The working group was chaired by the DHS OIG and included attorneys and Hotline operators from a representative sampling of OIGs.
We’re still reading through the report and will provide a more detailed analysis soon, but in the meantime we wanted to make sure that we gave major kudos to the IG community. Back in 2009, based on the findings of our report, Inspectors General: Accountability is a Balancing Act, we strongly encouraged the IG community to engage in exactly this sort of review. We’re thrilled that the community put in the time and effort to make it happen.
Here are the report’s recommendations:
Recommendation #1: OIGs should consider ensuring that their Hotline intake staff are adequately trained with respect to interview skills and program- and mission-specific information.
Recommendation #2: OIGs should consider ensuring that Hotline intake staff handle complaints consistently, providing training sufficient to ensure that all complainants receive the same information and that all complaints are handled similarly, without regard to the skill and experience level of a particular staff member.
Recommendation #3: OIGs should consider evaluating the technology available to assist in the complaint intake process in order to determine what, if any, technology might aid their Hotlines in processing incoming complaints faster, more efficiently, and more cost effectively.
Recommendation #4: OIG Hotline managers should consider collecting and analyzing data relating to incoming complaints in order to (1) evaluate and improve the efficiency of their intake process and their Hotline operations and (2) identify trends in the nature of the allegations received, particularly as they relate to systemic weaknesses in an agency’s programs and operations.
Recommendation #5: OIG Hotline managers should consider meeting regularly with appropriate senior OIG managers and staff to discuss Hotline performance, trends in incoming complaints, and prioritizing complaints in a manner that best furthers the OIG’s mission- and program-related initiatives.
Recommendation #6: During its initial contact with a complainant, an OIG Hotline should consider managing the complainant’s expectations with respect to further contact with the OIG, including providing information as to whether the complainant should expect status updates from the OIG.
Recommendation #7: OIGs should provide a mechanism for reporting information relating to fraud, waste, and abuse via their websites.
Recommendation #8: OIGs should consider providing educational information on their websites, such as (1) information about the whistleblower’s protections against retaliation, including a link to the Office of Special Counsel; (2) an explanation of how the OIG responds to complaints; and (3) general information on the OIG’s mission and how the Hotline relates to that mission.
Recommendation #9: OIG Hotlines should consider engaging in education and outreach efforts to raise the profile of their Hotline and its purpose to the parent organization’s employees and contractors, thereby increasing the number of relevant and actionable complaints the Hotline receives.
Recommendation #10: The OIG community should consider creating an ongoing forum through which Hotline operators can share information and best practices, such as a CIGIE Subcommittee, training conference, Hotline community website, or electronic mailing list.
-- Jake Wiens
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