Lawmakers call on President to fill widespread IG vacancies

Friday - 1/25/2013, 7:43pm EST

House and Senate lawmakers have called on President Barack Obama to fill inspector general vacancies at six large agencies, including open spots at the departments of Homeland Security and State.

"The value of the inspectors general goes beyond dollars; these offices also help reveal and prosecute wrongdoing, and promote the integrity of government," Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote in a Jan. 24 letter to the president. "They provide invaluable support to Congressional budgeting and oversight work. Inspectors General are an essential component of government oversight."

Acting IGs lack heft

The senators said they recognize the work of acting inspectors general, who carry out the office's duties on an interim basis. But a longstanding absence "is not healthy for any office," Carper and Coburn wrote.

Having the president nominate and the Senate confirm an appointee adds heft to the office, they explained.

"Inspectors General occupy a unique role — tasked with 'speaking truth to power' and with dual reporting obligations to their agency head and to Congress," the letter stated. "Those unique pressures may be especially challenging for an acting inspector general, serving without the endorsement of presidential selection and Senate confirmation."

The letter also pointed to vacancies at the departments of Interior, Labor and State. The latter has not had a permanent leader since January 2008 — the longest vacancy among the 73 IG positions across the federal government, according to the Council on Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).

House says President Obama disregarding law

In a separate letter, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee urged the president to appoint a permanent IG at State.

"During your entire first term as President, you did not nominate anyone to serve in this critical position," Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in the letter. "This failure evidences a clear disregard for the Inspector General Act and the will of Congress. It is particularly troubling given that, in addition to combating waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement, the State Department inspector general is required by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to perform inspections of the department's bureaus and posts around the world."

Issa and Cummings — who were joined in the letter by a few subcommittee chairmen as well — said they wrote the letter in the context of Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearings to be the next secretary of state.

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