8/6/15 Crippling the IG

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The office of inspector general was created for federal agencies nearly 40 years ago.  The goal was to have an independent office that could audit and investigate the agency to which it’€™s assigned.  Allowing it to identify corruption, mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse.

All-in-all, IGs appear to have worked as they were envisioned.  Of course, there have been some notable discrepancies along the way. Some IGs have been criticized as being too cozy with their agencies [here, here, here].

The most important tools available to an inspector general are his independence and access.

The access portion took a big blow the other day when the Justice Department issued an opinion that certain documents are off-limits.  And that an IG must request permission to see them.

Imagine this scenario.  An IG approaches a cabinet secretary and says, “Hey boss.  There appears to be some funny business going on in the agency.  And it looks like you’re involved.  I’d like your permission to see the documents that will help me get to the bottom of this.”

What do you think the boss is going to say? 

The 1978 law creating inspectors general state an IG shall “have access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other material.”

Denying them access to material the law already says he may see cripples the ability of an IG to thoroughly perform his job.  Perhaps this was the intended outcome.

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