New IG council chair maps out oversight priorities

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

New leadership is coming to the Council of Inspectors General. On Jan. 1, Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Justice Department, will begin his two-year term as chair of the organization.

On In Depth with Francis Rose, Horowitz and his predecessor, Brian Miller, former inspector general at the General Services Administration, discussed the many challenges of directing the 72 inspectors general in government.

“We all come together, you might guess there are a large variety of views in a community of that size,” Horowitz said.

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Horowitz outlined some of the priorities he has as council chair.

“It’s issues that arise as you go along that you don’t necessarily foresee, but there are several important issues pending before the community,” Horowitz said. “One that has played out in a public way is the integrity committee — how IGs investigate themselves, that’s a very important issue and an issue that we need to address and think about.”

Chief among his concerns, however, was bringing every agency up to speed on matters like data sharing and cloud computing.

“One of the things the CIGIE (Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency) coordinated and organized was a review among several IGs on the government’s effort at cloud computing within their agency, obviously an issue that almost every single federal agency is dealing with,” Horowitz said. “It did a joint review, compiled it together and CIGIE put it out recently. We’ve done that on improper payments, a similar type effort across the community. So those are the kinds of things that cross-cut throughout the community that we need to understand what each other are doing — make sure that we’re all doing the same thing to the extent that you can make sure that it’s apples-to-apples.”

As the former IG of GSA, Miller said good oversight relies on agencies providing the right documentation in a timely manner. However, he said that’s a difficult task for some agencies.

“Some agencies have a bigger bureaucracy to work through, more databases to go through to make sure they have produced all of the documents. And sometimes it just depends on how organized they are. A manager thinks that their employees have looked for documents when in fact they really didn’t. And so we come in and the manager has egg on her or his face. Sometimes it’s urgent to get the information,” Miller said.

When IGs can’t get the information they need from agencies, Miller said they must often fall back on third party sources.

“We often get information from other sources. We had a situation where we had a very important letter that was given to us from a third party, and it belonged to GSA clearly in their records and they were not producing it. But we had it. And they were saying ‘We gave you all the documents,’ and in fact they hadn’t,” Miller said.

The IG of the Government Accountability Office, Adam Trzeciak, described a similar situation in a recent report. In it, he said GAO was unable to produce the compensation case file of a former employee who had been receiving worker’s compensation for 30 years.

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