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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Launches Inspector General Vacancy Tracker: “Where Are All the Watchdogs?”

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February 8, 2012

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) launched a new web page today that tracks how long vacancies have been left open across the federal Inspector General (IG) system.

The longest vacancy has been at the State Department, which has gone 1,484 days—over four years—without a permanent IG, at a time when the Department has taken on the responsibility and challenge of managing scandal-prone private security contractors in war zones. As of today, there are seven IG positions that have been vacant for more than a year.

Besides tracking the length of vacancies, POGO’s “Where Are All the Watchdogs?” is a comprehensive listing of the overall number of vacant IG positions, whose responsibility it is to fill the positions and whether a nominee has been named or not. The 73 statutory Offices of Inspectors General in the federal government are responsible for overseeing government agencies and stopping waste and misconduct. The IGs save taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

“As the government looks for savings and as public confidence in government is historically low, it is inexcusable that we have so many Inspector General vacancies,” POGO investigator Jake Wiens said. “This new resource is intended to push government officials to fill these positions with qualified leaders.”

When an agency does not have a permanent IG, accountability is reduced and abuses can proceed unchecked. Acting IGs are generally less effective than permanent IGs because their temporary status impedes their ability to provide leadership and set long-term priorities. And unlike permanent IGs, acting IGs do not go through a vetting process, raising concerns about their independence and effectiveness. Over the course of President Obama’s term in office, POGO and members of Congress have repeatedly pointed to a high number of vacancies, some of which haven’t been filled for several years.

POGO’s tracker currently shows that 12 IG positions are vacant. That includes agencies where oversight is absolutely imperative, such as the Department of the Interior, which has gone 1080 days without a permanent IG, and the Justice Department, which has gone more than a year.  

“Why have some of these positions been empty for so long?” Wiens said.

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.