Our rolling analysis of President Obama's Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget request continues with another look at the watchdogs that save taxpayers money (directly and indirectly) by uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government and identifying opportunities for potential savings.
We focused previously on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Today we’ll look at an Office of Inspector General (OIG) that is working to rebuild from crippling cuts it faced last year.
The Corporation for National and Community Service Office of Inspector General (CNCS OIG)
By the numbers:
- FY 2011 (enacted): $7,684,000
- FY 2012 (enacted): $3,992,000
- FY 2013 (request): $5,400,000
Analysis: Community service, by most accounts, is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that the federal agency dedicated to supporting such a noble cause doesn’t need a watchdog.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has a budget of around $1 billion per year to support nonprofit organizations that deliver services to the community, which it does by providing grants and technical assistance. The CNCS Office of Inspector General (OIG) exists to ensure that all that money actually goes towards community service, as opposed to being wasted or stolen.
Unfortunately, the CNCS OIG was dealt a devastating blow in FY 2012 when its budget was cut nearly in half by Congress during the appropriations process. President Obama’s FY 2012 budget requested $8,450,000 for the CNCS OIG, but the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act appropriated a mere $3,992,000. As a consequence, the CNCS OIG is in the process of cutting 79 percent of its staff (26 of its 33 employees) and is “revamping its original 2012 workplan to eliminate most audits and evaluations.”
Despite attempts to boost funding for the CNCS OIG after the cut, a spokesperson for Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who leads the Senate panel that oversees the CNCS OIG budget, told Federal Times there was “little chance now of undoing the reduction.”
President Obama’s FY 2013 budget requests $5,400,000 for the CNCS OIG. In its justification to Congress, the CNCS OIG wrote that its request reflects an “effort to begin rebuilding the OIG’s human capital and capabilities in the wake of the large reduction we sustained in FY 2012.” The CNCS OIG added that the “reduction forced us to release many of our staff, including a number of investigators and auditors, and to suspend or greatly curtail most of our audit and investigative activity.” Although the FY 2013 request marks an increase from the FY 2012 level, a budget of $5,400,000 would still fall more than $2 million below the FY 2011 level.
To add insult to injury, the CNCS OIG has been without permanent leadership for 987 days—nearly three years—as shown in POGO’s new “Where Are All the Watchdogs?” webpage, which continually tracks IG vacancies. That vacancy could not come at a worse time for the CNCS OIG. One of the problems created by an IG vacancy is that the temporary nature of an acting IG can seriously impede the ability of the OIG “to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities.” And a long-term plan is exactly what the CNCS OIG needs right now.
Considering the budgetary crisis the CNCS OIG experienced in FY 2012, Congress should appropriate CNCS OIG as least as much funding as it received in FY 2011 ($7,684,000). The Senate should also make vetting and voting on the CNCS OIG nominee, Deborah J. Jeffrey, a priority. She has been awaiting a confirmation vote for 100 days.
Jake Wiens is a POGO investigator.