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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Urges Accountability in Inspector General System

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August 21, 2007

In an August 17, 2007, letter to Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Deputy Director and President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) Chairman Clay Johnson, POGO requested that Mr. Johnson take action to address instances of misconduct by agency Inspectors General (IGs).

The letter was spurred by the most recent incident in which a government investigative agency found that an IG acted inappropriately, yet nothing was done about it. Former Department of Commerce IG Johnnie Frazier was found by the Office of Special Counsel to have retaliated against two employees after they reported that Mr. Frazier had abused his government travel privileges. POGO's letter also questions the decision to allow Elizabeth Barlow to serve as Acting IG, considering she obtained her position as part of Mr. Frazier's efforts to retaliate against one of these employees.

This incident follows on the heels of another incident in which an IG acted questionably and was allowed to get away with it. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) IG Robert W. Cobb was the subject of a joint hearing of the House Science and Senate Commerce Committees in June, at which Ms. Brian testified. Mr. Cobb was found by the PCIE not to have exhibited the independence required of an Inspector General. He still remains as NASA's IG, despite PCIE's strong recommendations that he receive disciplinary action "up to and including a removal."

POGO has taken a particular interest in the integrity of the Inspectors General because of their vital role in oversight of executive branch agencies. POGO has begun an investigation into the system in order to identify its strengths and weaknesses, as well as possible improvements. In the August letter, Ms. Brian wrote:

"Mr. Johnson, we believe it is essential that you ensure that agency heads not turn a blind eye to this failure of accountability. If investigative findings of misconduct and abuse in Offices of Inspectors General are not enforced and remedied, this mismanagement will only continue. For both agency heads and OMB to ignore these investigative findings mocks the mission of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, and sends a clear message that these agencies are unconcerned with preserving the integrity of the system of Inspectors General. We look forward to seeing you assert your leadership role to correct the current misguided course."

Additional Resources:
Letter from Chairman John Dingell, (D-MI) to Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations investigating allegations against a number of senior officials within the Department of Commerce (DOC), Inspector General. August 7, 2007. 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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