In awarding federal grants, it is standard practice for a federal agency to require that a competitive grant proposal go through a peer review process in order to evaluate the merit of the application. POGO has found that multiple FY2007 Byrne Discretionary Grants appear to have been awarded outside of the peer review process, and believes there are even questions of patronage and conflicts of interest by DOJ appointees. Documents obtained by POGO indicate that DOJ awarded 13 grants without evaluating them through the peer review process, and at least two of those grants appear to involve conflicts of interest between the grantee and DOJ appointees in the offices awarding those grants.
Following news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Office of Inspector General (OIG) plans to be more directly involved in investigating the Secret Service prostitution scandal, some have concluded that Members of Congress--several of whom did not trust the Secret Service to investigate itself--will now be satisfied that the inquiry will be independent and credible. But if recent history is any guide, the fact that the DHS OIG lacks permanent leadership may cause some lawmakers to question whether that office is fit to handle such a politically explosive investigation, especially if the inquiry drags on or does not turn up evidence of misconduct by high-level officials.
Oversight of the executive branch got just a bit stronger last week with the confirmation of nominees to two key federal watchdog positions. Last Thursday, on the eve of the SIGTARP's one-year anniversary of operating without permanent leadership, the Senate voted to confirm Christy Romero as the head of the federal government’s bailout watchdog. The Senate confirmed Michael Horowitz to lead the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ IG) that same day.
Yesterday, the Comptroller General of the United States, Gene L. Dodaro, appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on federal agencies and programs "which have duplicative goals or activities."
As of today, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (IG) has been vacant for exactly one year. The position became vacant when Richard Skinner retired after 42 years of service in the federal government.
POGO has obtained the Special Review of the Keystone XL Pipeline conducted by the State Department Office of Inspector General, which is due to be made public tomorrow. An early report by Politico said the review found “no evidence of conflict of interest, bias or other wrongdoing in the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”
Over the past few years, the Justice Department has dramatically ramped up its enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to new records obtained by POGO under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The records provide hard evidence in support of what many attorneys had suspected.
In a letter sent yesterday, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) pushed the Obama administration to consider the legality of an ultimatum issued by the administration to the Corporation for National Community Service’s Inspector General, Gerald Walpin, informing him that if he did not resign within the hour, he would be fired. It was initially reported that the administration did not provide justification for that ultimatum.