By JAKE WIENS
As the General Services Administration (GSA) conference scandal continues to unfold, with new and shameful evidence of government waste and misconduct emerging seemingly every day, the spotlight has once again turned to the important work of Inspectors General (IGs), the federal government's independent watchdogs.
The scandal, which was first uncovered by the GSA IG, has led to the resignation of GSA’s top official, the firing of several more GSA employees, and continued criminal and congressional investigations into the matter. That the GSA IG published a report with such obvious political implications highlights the significance of IG independence and credibility, two qualities POGO has argued become diminished when an IG is led by a temporary, rather than a permanent official.
But unfortunately, IG leadership positions at many key agencies have been vacant for years. One of the current vacancies is at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which failed to prevent many of the abuses involved with the financial crisis. The SEC IG position became vacant when David Kotz resigned in January following a tenure marked by hard-hitting investigations, including an evaluation of how the SEC missed the $50 billion Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Kotz’s leadership earned the admiration of Congress and groups like POGO, but caused tension with some current and former SEC officials who had grown accustomed to operating without scrutiny.
POGO put five questions to Kotz on his tenure as SEC IG and the impact on oversight caused by IG vacancies.