May 03, 2013
Commerce agents plead guilty to fraud against agency
Two former Commerce agents who allegedly accused superiors of wrongdoing pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing false expense claims and clocking hours they didn’t work, according to the Justice Department.
Rachel Ondrik, 35, of Frederick and Kirk Yamatani, 38, of Ashburn, who worked as special agents for the inspector general’s office of the Commerce Department, sought payment for more than $36,000 each in false relocation expenses, according to their plea agreements.The former agents also committed time and attendance fraud, the Justice Department said. As part of their pleas, Ondrik and Yamatani agreed to probation and $42,000 each in fines and restitution to the government.
October 04, 2012
Link to IG report updated: Investigators Question Spending, Gifts at VA Training Conferences in Orlando
The Washington Post reports: Federal investigators estimated Monday that the Department of Veterans Affairs wastefully spent about $762,000 at two employee conferences last year in Orlando, Fla., and that senior leadership failed to provide proper oversight in planning and executing the events.
The inspector general for the VA said 11 of the department’s employees also accepted improper gifts from contractors seeking to do business with the government.
The full IG report may be found here:
April 16, 2012
More fall out from GSA conference scandal
Here are some additional articles relaying more information on the GSA conference scandal:
- AP reports on 4 Congressional hearings due this week. http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?full=true&contentguid=dcT0ukeB&detailindex=#display
- GovExec reports on emails which show organization was unsure whether to give official bonus or reprimand for lavish conference: http://www.govexec.com//oversight/2012/04/gsa-leaders-disagreed-reprimand-lavish-conference-lawmakers-say/41770/
- FedTimes reports that GSA IG referred the matter to Justice for consideration of criminal charges (likely in procurement area). http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120413/DEPARTMENTS07/204130302/1001
April 03, 2012
GSA Head resigns over excessives conference spending
Multiple news outlets have reported on the resignation of Martha Johnson, her deputy, but not before firing two senior GSA officials over a 2010 GSA Western Regions Conference, held in Los Vegas. Following an IG investigation, it was found that “many of the expenditures on this conference were excessive and wasteful, and that in many instances GSA followed neither federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conference spending.” To read the GSA IG Report: Download GSA IG Report 2012.
- GovExec articles: http://m.govexec.com/management/2012/04/lavish-conference-costs-top-gsa-officials-their-jobs/41651/?oref=top-story and http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/04/report-details-excessive-and-wasteful-conference-spending-gsa/41657/?oref=river
- Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gsa-chief-resigns-amid-reports-of-excessive-spending/2012/04/02/gIQABLNNrS_story.html
March 26, 2012
McCaskill Proposes IG for Senate
The Congressional decision to add several new Inspectors General in recent years shows that Congress has confidence in the Inspector General concept. The newest proposed addition to governent entities with IGs? The Senate.
March 12, 2012
Praise for Inspectors General
[T]he work of federal watchdogs isn’t exactly sexy. I’d wager you could walk from one end of the National Mall to the other and not pass a single person who could identify an Inspector General by name. However, recently, IGs are behind some of the biggest headlines and savings in U.S. government. Ever heard of the numerous scandals involving Solyndra? Bernie Madoff? Hurricane Katrina? Then you’ve probably run across a case that your trusty federal IG helped shed light on.
March 02, 2012
POGO: Don't Cut Watchdog Budgets
Budget Cutting is in the air, no doubt, but POGO argues that where you cut matters a great deal:
As Congress reviews the Administration’s request, it should keep in mind that OSC—like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs)—provides a substantial return on taxpayers’ investment :
Four cases alone in just the past few years restored well over $11 million to the government. This amount, while substantial, grossly understates the financial benefit OSC brings to the government.
The real measure of OSC’s financial contribution is prophylactic: By providing a safe channel for whistleblower disclosures, OSC regularly reins in waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, and threats to public health and safety that pose the very real risk of catastrophic harm to the public, and huge remedial and liability costs for the government.
February 06, 2012
Illustration of Risks For IGs Investigating Senior Officials?
Thanks to the IEC member who altered us to a Bloomberg article on questions about the propriety of some actions by the SEC Inspector General.
To add balance to our coverage, we offer the following comments by an experienced Inspector General lawyer, expressing his own opinion, and not necessarily that of the IEC:
We have not analyzed the article carefully and have no inside knowledge of the allegations. With this understood, we believe this may be the key sentence that puts the allegations in context:
Kotz, who has served as inspector general for four years, has been the subject of complaints by current and former officials who have said some of his probes are overly aggressive and his reports lack evidence of wrongdoing.
IGs who do their job can expect to make enemies. Some of them will be clever and powerful enemies with a proclivity for hitting back, by means fair or unfair.
The attached article from The Journal of Public Integrity by esteemed former Department of Defense Deputy Inspector General Derek Vander Schaff does a good job of describing some of the risks IGs run when they investigate senior agency officials:
Edited April 22, 2012 to make attribution more explicit.
January 29, 2012
Changing of Guard at SEC OIG
Government Executive's story on the departure of SEC OIG David Kotz included some laudatory comments:
His emphasis on the value and inviolability of whistleblowers impressed Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who issued a statement saying, "The agency has a big job and faces ongoing challenges to stay on top of fraud . . . David Kotz produced strong, conclusive reports, even as critics claimed he was too aggressive. An aggressive, independent inspector general is best for the agency in the long run, even if that's uncomfortable for management . . . Go-along-to-get-along just doesn't get the job done. You need someone who tells it like it is."
Kotz also drew praise from Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. "Kotz did what IGs should do: he was very engaged with the Congress and wasn't afraid to point out clearly when his agency wasn't doing its job," she told Government Executive. "He came in at a time when the SEC was in need of a tough critic -- and his investigations had some real impact." She noted that the Justice Department recently announced that it had fined a former SEC enforcement official "who went through the revolving door" to work for indicted financier Allen Stanford after delaying investigation into Stanford's alleged Ponzi scheme, a conflict exposed by Kotz's team.
December 09, 2011
Federal Computer Week Story on IGs
A Federal Computer Week story entitled "When IGs Attack, What's an Agency Leader to Do?" suveys some recent disputes been managers of agencies and their inspectors general. The vitriolic reader comments are worth a quick note:
While no large organization is without problems, attacks on IGs may give a misleading impression. The benefits that IGs provide (and they are many) are dispersed. An IG report may identify millions of dollars in savings, but the taxpapers who benefit will rarely associate the benefit with the inspector general. The Congressional committees who benefit by having money freed up for other purposes are in a better position to understand their value, and in my experience, most members of Congress do.
On the other hand, it's common for a hard-hitting audit or investigation to create enemies, enemies who know exactly which IG hurt them, through causing a poor evaluation, a firing, or even leading to criminal prosecution and a prison term in the worst cases.
Bottom Line: Good IGs make enemies, and it's best to keep this in mind when reading through comments made in public forums like the FCW comment feature, especially when the commenters are anonymous.
December 01, 2011
Govt attorney pleads guilty to conflict of interest
Consumer Products Safety Commission attorney plead guilty to a conflict of interest violation and filing false statements on his "ethics forms." The charges stem from his claim to have “Insider Knowledge” in advertising his private law practice and his failure to disclose this outside business on his disclsoure reports. He also represented a private client before the Federal Government.
Read the full DOJ press release, see http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Public-Affairs/press_releases/press08/GovernmentLawyerGuiltyofConflictofInterestandFilingFalseDisclosureForms.html.
November 27, 2011
Mortuary Investigation Another Encouraging Sign From Office of Special Counsel
“The OSC seems to be getting more aggressive and confident in shining a public light on agency failings,” POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach said. “We’ll need more time before we can say whether or not the mortuary case and some other recent actions are isolated examples or a part of a trend, but POGO has definitely seen some things it likes from OSC in recent months.”
For the whistleblowers in the Air Force mortuary case, the OSC provided an important independent review of their claims of retaliation. Unlike most agency Inspector Generals, the Air Force Inspector General and other military inspector generals are directly part of the chain of command and thus not independent.
“The Air Force was tasked by the Department of Defense to investigate the allegations, and they spent a great deal of time and a great deal of effort on it,” Ann O’Hanlon, an OSC spokesman told POGO. “But there were pieces of their investigation—which we made very public—that we didn’t think went far enough. Specifically, the disciplinary actions taken against the three men that were responsible.”
NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller reported on Wednesday that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is considering further actions against the officials.
The three senior officials—one of whom tried to fire two of the whistleblowers after becoming aware of the investigation and another who ordered that the mortuary cut a Marine’s arm off with a saw—were not dismissed by the Air Force. In fact, one received only a letter of reprimand, and the other two were demoted to jobs at Dover outside of the mortuary, according to The New York Times.
The OSC sharply criticized this decision in their report to the Secretary of the Air Force, arguing that “these managers ignored evidence given to them, presented baseless explanations that were ‘simply not credible’ and took affirmative steps to conceal the problem.”
As a result, OSC wrote, “The retention of these individuals sends an inappropriate message to the workforce.”
“I don’t know of any further action [the Air Force] has taken directly since our report came out, but there’s congressional interest now, and we hope that there will be results,” O’Hanlon said.
October 28, 2011
Article on Relationship Between IG and Ethics Officials
The most recent issue of The Journal of Public Inquiry contains the article Growing Old Together: Inspector General and Ethics Counsel - Changing Environments and Challenges. The authors are Nancy Eyl, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Maryann Lawrence Grodin, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Office of Inspector General and Alexandra Keith, of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
October 25, 2011
IG Achievements Celebrated
Government watchdogs identified potential savings of $87.2 billion in 2010 in investigations ranging from defective drugs to disaster loan fraud, according to the annual report by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
September 30, 2011
GAO: IGs Have Very High Return on Investment
POGO discusses a new Government Accountability Office report on Inspectors General:
The federal government's 62 Inspectors General (IGs) are putting your tax dollars to good use, returning about $18 for every dollar investment, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
As part of the Dodd-Frank Act--legislation enacted in response to the 2008 financial meltdown--Congress required the GAO to report on the relative independence and efficiency of federal IGs. The result is a report released last week which shows that IGs save taxpayers billions of dollars, and provides hard evidence that the Dodd-Frank Act has increased their independence.
In the 2009 fiscal year, the IGs had an allotted budget of about $2.3 billion, but reported potential savings of about $43.3 billion. The IGs were also responsible for 5,900 actions against criminals, 1,100 civil actions, 4,460 suspensions and debarments and 6,100 indictments as a result of their work, according to the report.
September 22, 2011
White House orders agencies to review policies on conferences
The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General just released an audit report which assessed the Department's expenditures related to conferences. The report reviewed a sampling of conferences held by the Department between October 2007 and September 2009, showing excessive spending on conferences food and beverage items, such as $16 for a muffin. See report: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/plus/a1143.pdf. See also the Washington Post article on the same: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-16-muffin-justice-dept-audit-finds-wasteful-and-extravagant-spending/2011/09/20/gIQAXKyhiK_story.html.
In response to the audit report, OMB issued a directive for all agencies to review policies related to conferences, to try to eliminate excessive spending and promote efficiencies in conferences. See http://www.govexec.com/pdfs/092111ts1.pdf.
Ethics related news
Here are some news item with ethics related topics:
- DOJ Press release on Former Army Corps of Engineer pleading guilty to accepting bribes on Iraqi contracts. See http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/September/11-crm-1207.html
- SOCO Advisory 11-04 is available in the Ethics Resource Library at: http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/2011_Advisories/advisory_1104.htm. Topics include: 1. Hatch Act Guidance for Civilian Employees; 2. 2011 National Emergency Extended by President; 3. Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure update; & 4. Combined Federal Campaign.
September 19, 2011
SEC IG Criticized
The Washington Post reports on criticism of the SEC Inspector General by a former Chair of the SEC:
Without using his name, Pitt said Inspector General H. David Kotz has taken an “unprincipled approach” in criticizing “hard-working, well-intending” SEC employees.
Pitt’s accusations come as Kotz is preparing to issue a series of reports on sensitive SEC issues. One involves allegations that the SEC’s enforcement division pulled punches in a Wall Street probe. Another involves allegations that the agency glossed over a conflict of interest in its work on compensation for victims of Bernard Madoff’s investment fraud.
Pitt is representing a former SEC official for free in the ongoing Madoff-related probe.
The following comment represents the view of an experienced IG lawyer (not with the SEC). He does not purport to represent the views of the Interagency Ethics Counsel, but proffers the observation for whatever relevance it might have:
We are not aware of all the details of the SEC situation, but this is somewhat reminiscent of warnings from a 1996 article from "The Journal of Public Inquiry." Derek Vander Schaff, a distinguished longtime IG official, noted that when IGs criticize senior officials, they have to be ready for counterattacks, sometimes of a "political" (lowercase "p") nature:
Edited April 18, 2012 to add attribution.
July 11, 2011
Leading Precedent on Firing An Inspector General
A belated reference to the January decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia concerning the firing of Corporation for National and Community Service IG Walpin is in order, because it provides the best available precedent concering the IG job tenure provisions of the IG Reform Act of 2008.
July 07, 2011
IG investigation into Defense Education Agency Director
The Inspector General for the Department of Defense substantiated multiple charges against the DoD Education Agency's former Director, including violations of the Joint Ethics Regulation and standards of conduct. See Federal Times article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20110630/DEPARTMENTS01/106300306/1049/PERSONNEL and IG redacted report at: http://www.dodig.mil/fo/Foia/PDFs/MilesROIforreleaseRedacted.pdf.
April 02, 2011
Former Amtrak IG Departure ScrutinizedGovExec.com has an update on the controversial departure from federal service of the former Amtrak Inspector General.
March 08, 2011
Gov Exec Article Examines Role of IGs
Government Executive's March cover story, Into the Limelight, reviews the role of contemporary Inspectors General.
February 26, 2011
Bills Seek Watchdog for Federal Judges - Washington Wire - WSJ
The legislation would establish an inspector general for the judicial branch, with subpoena power to compel testimony from reluctant witnesses. The office would be tasked with investigating judges who run afoul of the law. However, both versions would prohibit this new officer from reviewing or investigating the merits of specific legal decisions, a safeguard to insure the new IG won't undermine an independent judiciary.
February 22, 2011
Subpoena Power for IGs?
Stephen M. Ryan, head of the Government Strategies Practice Group at McDermott Will & Emery LLP summarizes the arguments against legislation that would give subpoena power to Inspectors General:
Analysis: Beware of expanding the powers of inspectors general--GovExec.com.
January 28, 2011
DoD OIG draft report on misuse of Govt purchase card at CENTCOM
Tampa Tribune reports: "U.S. Central Command 'wasted funds' by improperly using government purchasing cards to buy coins, cigar storage boxes, televisions and other items, according to a draft report released by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. The report chides officials for lax oversight and failing to enforce or follow rules involving about $40,000 in purchases." See full article at http://www2.tbo.com/content/2011/jan/28/PMENEWSO1-centcom-buys-trouble-with-purchase-cards/
See DoD OIG Draft report: http://www.dodig.mil/Audit/reports/fy11/11-034.pdf
January 23, 2011
Abuse of AMTRAK E-mail AllegedA Government Executive article notes inquiries by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa into retirement of the former AMTRAK Inspector General into some alleged improprieties.
January 04, 2011
Legal Relationship Between Ethics Officers and IGs
With the assistance of Nancy Eyl, Sandy Keith and Maryann Grodin are doing research on the legal relationship between ethics officials and Inspectors General, focusing on regulatory or statutory changes over the past 15 years. Nancy asks that anyone with thoughts to contribute on this issue contact her via e-mail. The address is modified to throw off automated spam scanners:
Nancy --DOT-- Eyl --AT-- dhs --DOT-- gov
A 1996 article by Sandy Keith and Maryann Grodin is a starting point for their research. Here is a copy of this excellent uncopyrighted article for the convenience of our readers:
December 29, 2010
Afghan Reconstruction IG Under Fire
Foreign Policy has an article about Congressional dissatisfaction with the controversial Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
December 23, 2010
Govt Printing Office IG audit of GPO Ethics program
The Government Printing Office, Office of Inspector General, completed an audit of GPO's ethics program. No ethical violations or noncompliance were found but two recommendations were made and will be implemented by GPO's Office of General Counsel to strengthen the program as well as the culture of GPO. See full report at http://gpo.gov/pdfs/ig/audits/11-01_FinalReportGPOsEthicsProgram.pdf
December 11, 2010
Interior IG Report Cites Irregularities in Shell Bids
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The federal agency that controls oil and natural-gas production on U.S.-owned land "appeared to give preferential treatment" to Royal Dutch Shell PLC when the company pursued drilling leases on public land during 2005 and 2006, the acting inspector general of the Interior Department said in a report Friday.
Investigators said they found no evidence that Shell broke the law, and "no conclusive evidence" that then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton—who accepted a job with Shell several months after leaving her government post—broke federal conflict-of-interest laws. ...
The Interior Department's inspector general's office had referred the matter to the Justice Department, which declined criminal prosecution. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An Interior Department spokeswoman said the department was reviewing the report. Ms. Norton didn't respond to a request for comment.One Interior ethics official wrote Ms. Norton in an e-mail that "the permanent ban might not apply based on your description of how you were involved in this issue while Secretary," according to the report. The ethics official also asked Norton follow-up questions, but Norton "never responded," the report said. ...
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics concluded that Norton had "played a significant role" in the oil-shale program while secretary and said that her "participation in the program should subject her to the lifetime ban on communicating with the federal government regarding the program," the report said. ...
November 30, 2010
DOJ Inspector General to Resign
November 22, 2010
Independence of U.S. Afghan IG Questioned
POGO and others have raised questions concering the indendence of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan.
November 13, 2010
OGE 2009 Prosecution Survey
The Office of Government Ethics issued DAEOgram DO-10-017 on November 9, 2010 announcing the publication of the 2009 Conflict of Interest Prosecution Survey. The survey contains summaries of cases involving conflict of interest violations. The Department of Justice prosecuted the cases. See http://www.usoge.gov/ethics_guidance/daeograms/dgr_files/2010/do10017.pdf
Posted by Account Deleted in Inspectors General, Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, Issues: Gifts, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Misuse of Position, Issues: Outside Activities, Issues: Post Employment, OGE | Permalink
November 09, 2010
DOJ IG report on US Attorney travel practies (Nov. 2010)
The report found most U.S. Attorney's followed the rules and per diem limits. For the small number of U.S. Attorneys, who routinely exceeded the government rate, the IG found they did so by large amounts, with insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification. See full report at http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/plus/o1011.pdf.
The report found most U.S. Attorney's followed the rules and per diem limits. For the small number of U.S. Attorneys, who routinely exceeded the government rate, the IG found they did so by large amounts, with insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification. See full report at http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/plus/o1011.pdf.
October 02, 2010
Permanent IG for Wartime Contracting?The expansion of IG authorities in the Inspector General Reform Act in 2008 and the steady increase in the number of IGs demonstrate a high level of Congressional confidence in the IG concept. The latest manifestation is discussed in a recent Government Executive article:
Senator calls for permanent wartime contracting watchdog.
September 21, 2010
NASA IG says Bolden should not have called Marathon re biofuels project
Space News reports on the Inspector General findings in a controversy surrounding the NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. They found he should not have consulted Marathon Oil Corp. about a NASA-funded biofuels project, but did not violate federal laws or conflict-of-interest regulations by seeking the counsel of a company on whose board he previously served. He did however violate his 2 year recusal under the Ethics Pledge and raise an appearance of a conflict of interest. See full article at http://www.spacenews.com/commentaries/100920-fromwires-ig-bolden-called-marathon.html.
See NASA IG report: http://oig.nasa.gov/investigations/OMEGA-Report.pdf
Of note, the NASA IG disagreed with NASA attorneys determination that the matter did not need to be referred to the inspector general.
See initial article on same at http://www.spacenews.com/commentaries/100621-fromwires-bolden-biofuels-controversy.html
June 22, 2010
District Court Dismisses Ex-IG Walpin's ClaimsThe Sacramento Bee reports on a U.S. District Court's dismissal of the claim of a disgruntled IG reported here previously. A copy of the decision dismissing the suit is available.
June 02, 2010
IG Report on MMSThe recent Department of the Interior Inspector General report on improprieties in the Minerals Management Service is available. This is not the first OIG report to address similar MMS problems, which we discussed in a September 10, 2008 posting.
May 25, 2010
NY Times article on Minerals Management Service Ethical lapses.See full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/us/25mms.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
May 11, 2010
Where Are the Watchdogs? - The Center for Public IntegrityWhere Are the Watchdogs? - The Center for Public Integrity:
At least 15 of the 73 inspectors general, chief auditors, or whistleblower protection jobs across government currently are vacant or are being covered by acting officials, according to a Center for Public Integrity review. Many of the openings have languished for a year or more.
Gov Exec's Fedblog has some additional thoughts:
But I think it's important to include some context here. According to the appointments the Washington Post is tracking, only 70.9 percent of the positions Obama has to fill are filled with confirmed appointees. 79.5 percent of Inspectors General positions are filled with permanent officials, according to the Center's own statistics. So watchdogs are actually doing somewhat better than federal positions as a whole in terms of getting appointed and confirmed.
And I also think it's worth interrogating the idea that career officials in acting positions are actually less stable than confirmed people, given the scandals that have rocked the IG community, and that the Center points out. I think it would actually make a lot of sense to have career folks hold IG slots for set term limits. But then, of course, as the Government Accountability Office proves, when it comes to filling someone when that term is up or that person steps down, the molasses-like pace of the appointment and confirmation process is still going to prevent a smooth transition.
April 27, 2010
DHA IG report FEMA Procurement and Conflict problems
DHS Inspector General report on FEMA's problems with conflicts of interests related to the National Flood Insurance Program IT Transformation. http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-76_Mar10.pdf. While the recommendations primarily involved procurement related integrity issues, of note were recommendations to better identify those who should be financial disclosure filers and also who should receive ethics training, as well as the recommendation that training be conducted in person.
See GovExec article at http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=45113&dcn=e_gvet
April 16, 2010
Guarding the Guardians
March 11, 2010
Disciplinary Action for OMB Budget ThreatA Government Executive story on NextGov highlights the significance of IG independence:
An Office of Management and Budget staffer crossed the line when he threatened to "make life miserable" for the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general if he complained to Congress about his fiscal 2011 budget, a recent investigation has found.
The internal review by OMB's general counsel concluded that the career program examiner made inappropriate remarks with the OPM IG's office in January and should be disciplined for his actions. ...
February 25, 2010
VA OIG substantiates ethics allegations
Dept. of Veterans Affairs Inspector General substantiated, in an administrative investigation, abuse of authority, misuse of position and resources, acceptance of gratuities, and interferences with an OIG investigation, by officials in the National Programs & Special Events. See full redacted report 2009-1492-IQ-0117) at http://www4.va.gov/oig/51/FY2010rpts/VAOIG-09-01492-83.pdf. Charges included:
- Misuse of Resources - official time, subordinate time, government travel, and computer systems.
- Improper acceptance of gifts from prohibited sources
- Distruction of Evidence & lying to investigators
- Circumventing FAR regulations in award of procurements.
IGs & WhistleblowersThe Washington Post's Federal Eye columnist discusses a controversial conclusion of a non-profit watchdog group's report:
"It has long been POGO's experience, as well as that of many whistleblower attorneys contacted by POGO, that generally IGs are at best irrelevant to whistleblowers and at worst are part of the problem."
February 23, 2010
POGO's 12 Proposed FixesAt least a couple (strengthening whistleblower protection and IG independence) of POGO's Dozen Nonpartisan Good Government Fixes Congress Should Implement in 2010 are of interest to the ethics community.
November 20, 2009
IGs Tackle Tough ProblemsAn October Federal Diary column about the annual awards ceremony for Inspectors General had some quotes from attendees that give a flavor for the type of work they do:
"You're not called in for the easy problems, you're called in for the hard problems," Jeffrey Zients, White House chief performance officer and CIGIE executive chairman, told the crowd Tuesday. "You're oftentimes not the most popular person in the room, and I'm sure at times that's very lonely." Regardless, he added: "We are in a period of urgency. This is not a period of business-as-usual or incremental change."
October 19, 2009
Interior IG Report on Gettysburg Superintendent
Perhaps predictably, a Washington Post story about an Inspector General report on the Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Park leads with scandalous accusations about accessing pornography on a government computer, but buries arguably more serious issues deep in the body of the story:
The inspector general's investigation noted that Latschar said the construction project would be funded by the foundation and that no taxpayer money would be used. However, as the price tag jumped from $39.3 million to $135 million, $35 million in public financing was ultimately needed to finish construction, records show.
The report also said that Latschar planned late last year to leave his [$145,000-a-year job as] superintendent to take a $245,000-a-year job as the foundation's president.
An internal Jan. 26, 2009, memo, obtained by The Post, shows that during the course of the inspector general's investigation, department ethics officials stepped in, pointing out several legal obstacles Latschar would face. The memo says post-government employment laws would prohibit him from performing many job duties, including "any communication to or appearance before an employee of the United States."
As a result, Latschar dropped his planned job move, records show.
October 06, 2009
OIG report on appearance of ethical violations at Bureau of Land Management
OIG found BLM National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) employees were engaged in inappropriate relationships with advocacy groups (nongovernmental organizations) and possibly violated anti-lobbying statutes and policies. In particular, NLCS employees produced items like brochures and fact sheets for NGO. A pattern that the OIG says revealed that communication between NLCS and certain NGOs in these circumstances gave the appearance of federal employees being less than objective and created the potential for conflicts of interest or violations of law.
See full report athttp://www.eenews.net/public/25/12636/features/documents/2009/10/05/document_gw_01.pdf
August 21, 2009
IG Report on VA official misuse of position
A recent Veterans Administration IG report sustained charges of misuse of position for personal gain against a VA Deputy Assistant Secretary of IT in addition to abuse of authority and prohibited personnel paractices. See redacted report at http://www.va.gov/oig/51/fy2009rpts/VAOIG-09-01123-195.pdf