Inspectors General may sometimes be the fox guarding the hen house, but they're all that we have, and once in a while they work. An Inspector General can save taxpayers billions by investigating whistleblower claims of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement or illegality.
The recent the General Services Administration (GSA) scandal demonstrates the need for IGs, which by law agencies are supposed to have in place. WaPo reports that while testifying before congress yesterday,
Inspector General Brian Miller told a congressional committee scrutinizing an $823,000 Las Vegas conference that his office has asked the Justice Department to investigate “all sorts of improprieties” surrounding a 2010 event, “including bribes, including possible kickbacks.”WaPo reports that the Las Vegas conference for GSA employees was an extravagant affair put on by expensive contractors - most of whom were awarded no-bid contracts:
Taxpayers picked up the tab for a mind reader, bicycles for a team-building exercise and a slew of private parties at the conference. . . . the freewheeling spending, which included poolside entertainment by a clown and a “Red Carpet” talent show. . .Yet despite that the GSA IG is investigating waste and fraud like taxpayer-funded clowns (no, I don't think that's referring to Congress), there are currently 10 Inspector General positions vacant at other federal agencies, including the ones where we most need them, like the Department of State and the Department of Defense.
The ten vacancies are down from 12 in February 2012, so many that the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) launched a web page to track Inspector General vacancies. The current vacancies include critical agencies such as the Department of State, Department of Labor, and the Department of Defense.
Until recently, the Justice Department IG position had been vacant for more than year.
And this vacancy despite the fact that the former DOJ IG reported on massive waste, mismanagement, and questionably-legal behavior in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) use of PATRIOT Act power such as the use of National Security Letters, which allow the FBI to obtain on U.S. citizens without Court oversight.
Inspectors General are not a substitute for Court or congressional oversight, nor are they a substitute meaningful legislative whistleblower protections. But Inspectors General can provide critical oversight within Executive agencies that, while not lessening the need for external checks, can use their investigatory powers to drastically reduce waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement or illegality within our government. For that reason, filling vacant IG positions should be a much higher priority. In this economy, taxpayers do not have money to waste on clowns and pool parties.