White House working with IG community to ID candidates for long-term watchdog vacancies

Faced with several long-term inspector general vacancies at key agencies, the number-two official of the IG community says the Trump administration has begun ve...

Faced with several long-term inspector general vacancies at key agencies, the number-two official of the IG community says the Trump administration has begun vetting candidates to fill those watchdog jobs.

Allison Lerner, the inspector general of the National Science Foundation, and the vice chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), said Thursday that she’s worked closely with the White House to select prospective agency watchdogs before President Donald Trump formally nominates them.

“I’ve been wearing the hat of being very involved in working with the White House to identify candidates for open presidentially appointed IG positions,” Lerner said, speaking at AGA’s Internal Control and Fraud Prevention Conference in Washington.

In addition to filling agency IG vacancies, Lerner said OIG offices also need to recruit rank-and-file staff members, armed with data analytics, data assurance and IT security skills.

“That makes me think about how are we building the next generation of leaders. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to well over 60 people who are interested in stepping into these roles, but we need more and more people, because we fill a  few, and then more vacancies occur,” she said.

In addition to stepping up recruiting efforts, CIGIE has developed a leadership development program for early and mid-career employees.  Lerner said it’s hard for IGs to participate in Senior Executive Service candidate development programs, but to that effect, CIGIE has launched its own fellows program.

Now on its second cohort of participants, CIGIE fellows follow a six-month track of developmental opportunities.

“We might want to be here forever, but we aren’t going to be here forever,” Lerner said, referring to herself and other agency IGs. “There need to be generations of people after us that are willing to take on these jobs that are really amazing and exciting, but also terrifying.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of CIGIE, which seeks to bring together all 73 federal inspectors general on common issues.

While CIGIE seeks to break down barriers between IGs, Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department IG and CIGIE chairman, said agency IGs are seeking to break down barriers internally, and improve communications between OIG auditors, investigators, policy analysts and lawyers.

“We’re trying to bridge those gaps by bringing together more cross-cutting teams within our own agencies, because as a joke, you sometimes walk into our offices and you think we’re five IGs instead of one IG office with multiple disciplines.”

Lerner added that she’s also consulted with agencies that appoint their own inspectors general.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Inspector General Act. But at present, 13 agencies currently lack a confirmed, permanent IG, and more than 10 of those have been without a permanent IG for more than a year, according to the Project on Government Oversight. 

Of the 10 presidentially appointed IG vacancies identified by POGO, President Donald Trump has submitted names for six agency IG jobs.

While acting inspector generals continue to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities of their offices,  Senate-confirmed, permanent IGs help set a long-term vision at their agencies.

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