Reacting to a letter of complaint from 47 inspectors general, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held hearings on Wednesday to investigate charges that federal agencies routinely practice obstructionism in their dealings with those who are charged with their oversight. IG’s in the hearing spoke of particular difficulties with the Peace Corps, Justice Department, EPA and Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.
Three IG’s testified that rather than receiving documents they often receive excuses and denials, and that their investigations are needlessly delayed as a result.
While the White House contends that their agencies have an overall good working relationship with those their auditors, OMB Director Shaun Donovan provided written assurance that it will be made clear to all that it is their responsibility to provide the requested information to auditors.
The law compelling cooperation is clear, the IG’s stated, but the frequently run into conflicts, with other laws providing the necessary cover for delays by the agencies.
Arthur Elkins, the IG for both the EPA and the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said, “The act, as written, is quite strong and quite clear. It provides access to all agency information and all agency employees. There are no exceptions.”
The problem, he said, is that “The IG Act hinges on the cooperation of an agency with its IG. If there is not prompt and complete cooperation, the work of the OIG is stifled.”
He cautioned lawmakers not to change the law, just require compliance and enforcement, adding “all means all.”
Numerous examples of delay tactics and partial compliance were offered in the hearings by the IGs as were proclamations of compliance by the government.
One thing is certain, the IGs would not have sent the letter which prompted the hearings, a rare and serious step, if they didn’t feel their ability to fulfill their responsibilities was being severely hampered.
Inspector General Elkins describes the obstructionism, as he called it, “issues relative to access” starting at the top, meaning the White House. He says that when there is a clear message from the top to provide access it is granted, absent that message, there is obstruction.
Elkins adds, “To answer your question directly, it starts at the top; clear message from the top, what the expectations are, that’s the way the rest of the troops will march.
Rick Wells is a conservative author who recognizes that our nation, our Constitution and our traditions are under a full scale assault from multiple threats. Please “Like” him on Facebook, “Follow” him on Twitter or visit www.rickwells.us