A group of GOP House leaders sent a letter today to President Barack Obama, asking him to name a new inspector general for the Department of the Interior. The agency’s last permanent IG stepped down in February 2009.
“The federal government performs better when a robust group of independent watchdogs is in place to guard taxpayer dollars against waste, fraud, and mismanagement,” the letter said. “With that in mind, Congress created independent and objective investigatory offices at 72 federal agencies, including the Department of Interior, to promote efficiency and effectiveness. When these positions are vacant for extended periods of time, the office is weakened because temporary leadership is neither adequately independent nor well-positioned to make long-term decisions.”
The letter was signed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.); Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee; Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee; and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
“The Department’s last permanent inspector general left on February 23, 2009 — more than six years ago,” the letter said. “Since then, the office has been managed by an acting inspector general whose tenure has been the subject of recent, significant congressional oversight and controversy. Many acting inspectors perform admirably despite lacking the imprimatur of the Senate and the White House. Because acting inspectors general are inherently less independent than their permanent counterparts, however, stakeholders do not have full confidence that their work is credible. Additionally, some acting inspectors general are candidates for the permanent job, which creates an incentive to conduct less aggressive oversight of the administration. In any event, taxpayers suffer the consequences.”
Sixteen members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sent a similar letter to the President in April, asking him to nominate permanent IGs at 10 agencies, including Interior.
“The absence of permanent, Senate-confirmed or agency-appointed inspectors general in these positions significantly diminishes the ability of OIGs to perform thorough and independent oversight,” said committee Chairman Rob Johnson (R-Wis.), at the time.