By JAKE WIENS
Over the holiday weekend, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (OIG) joined the IG community's 1,000 day vacancy club, increasing its inglorious membership from three offices to four.
The club's longest serving member is the State Department OIG, with a leadership vacancy streak of 1,546 days and counting. The Department of the Interior OIG trails by about 400 days, with a streak of 1,142. And the Corporation for National & Community Service OIG rounds out the club’s membership with a relatively modest streak of 1,033 days. As the only member with a nominee pending, the Corporation for National & Community Service OIG currently has the best shot at leaving the club.
Since February, POGO has been documenting IG vacancies on a webpage called “Where Are All the Watchdogs?” The webpage continually tracks the overall number of vacant IG positions, whose responsibility it is to fill the positions, and whether a nominee has been named or not. The webpage also describes the importance of permanent IG leadership:
OIGs are best positioned to be effective when led by a highly qualified permanent IG, rather than an acting official or no IG at all. Permanent IGs undergo significant vetting—especially the IGs that require Senate confirmation—before taking their position. That vetting process helps to instill confidence among OIG stakeholders—Congress, agency officials, whistleblowers, and the public—that the OIG is truly independent and that its investigations and audits are accurate and credible.
In addition, a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.”
There is no good excuse for the White House to fail to nominate an IG for a position that has been vacant for years. You can help POGO reduce the club’s membership by telling President Obama to nominate a credible, independent IG for the State Department without delay.
Jake Wiens is a POGO investigator.