The Mystery of the Missing IGs

When Barack Obama campaigned for office, he insisted that his administration would bring a new era of transparency.  It has, but not in the way most took Obama to mean.  Dana Liebelson wants to hire Sherlock Holmes to get to the bottom of the Mystery of the Missing IGs:

IGs oversee an army of talented auditors and investigators who independently bust waste, fraud, and misconduct within government agencies. In the past, IG-led investigations have exposed torture supported by the Bush Administration, misuse of the controversial Patriot Act, and Humvee “death traps” in Iraq. These watchdogs are vital to keeping federal agencies honest, and informing Congress of wrongdoing. They also save taxpayers up to $18 for every dollar invested in IGs, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

But some of the most important agency posts — for example, an IG for the State Department — are vacant, and have been for years. Many of these “missing watchdogs” require an appointment from President Obama before the Senate can confirm them, but the White House has been downright sluggish, if not outright negligent, in taking action. …

Here are some facts: According to a new tracker published by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), there are now 12 IG vacancies, including the Department of State (vacant for nearly 1,500 days), the Department of Justice (nearly 400 days), the Department of Homeland Security (more than 360 days), and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (nearly 400 days).

Obama has nominated a baker’s dozen of IGs, and all but three have been confirmed.  Eight of those nominations came before the midterm elections.  Obama has not even bothered to nominate an IG for State despite the years-long open spot.  Most of these appointees got confirmations within weeks of their formal nominations, so the issue is not obstructionism by Republicans in the Senate.

So what’s the problem?  It’s that the Obama administration isn’t terribly interested in independent transparency.  Just ask Gerald Walpin, whose objections to a sweetheart deal to get an Obama backer out of serious trouble led to his firing.  Less well known was another termination of an IG at the same time, and the leashing of another.   Other IGs erupted in outrage, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realize that Obama learned the lesson that it’s easier to operate with fewer IGs.  Why appoint watchdogs who will only get in your way?

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