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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Letter to OMB's Clay Johnson regarding integrity of Inspector General system

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August 17, 2007

Mr. Clay Johnson, III
Deputy Director for Management
Office of Management & Budget
Eisenhower Executive Office Bldg.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502


Dear Mr. Johnson,

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is concerned that there appears to be a growing pattern of unwillingness, on the part of agency heads, to enforce investigative findings concerning instances of IG misconduct.  As Chair of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) and Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) you are in a position to preserve the integrity of the IG system by ensuring that the Executive Branch cease to be indifferent to findings of IG misconduct.

In May 2007 the Office of Special Counsel found that the Department of Commerce IG, Johnnie E. Frazier, retaliated against two employees after they reported him to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency with concerns that Frazier had abused government travel privileges.  The Office of Special Counsel recommended that the President take disciplinary action against IG Frazier that reflected how "egregious[ly]" he acted.

While IG Frazier has since resigned, POGO questions allowing Elizabeth Barlow, who obtained her position as part of Frazier's efforts to retaliate against one of his employees, to serve as Acting IG.  Allowing Barlow to serve in this position reflects at best an attitude of indifference to the findings of the Office of Special Counsel.

POGO is also concerned that the two employees who were retaliated against did not get the corrective relief recommended by the Office of Special Counsel.  Instead, the General Counsel for the Department of Commerce advised the Office of Special Counsel to negotiate corrective action with Acting IG Barlow, despite the fact that this would provide an obvious conflict of interest.  POGO fears that allowing Barlow to remain in this position means that the integrity of the Department of Commerce IG office will only be damaged further as these instances of misconduct go uncorrected.

The Department of Commerce IG office is not the only IG office to recently know instances of abuse and misconduct.  In January of this year, the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency found that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) IG Robert W. Cobb abused his authority and appeared to lack independence from the agency that he was charged with overseeing. Despite many Members of Congress calling for Cobb's resignation, the disciplinary action taken thus far is minimal at best-IG Cobb remains in his position and has only been asked to take managerial classes.  In response, the PCIE insisted this was an inadequate response and recommended disciplinary action against IG Cobb "up to and including a removal." This recommendation appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

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 Inspector 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.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director

cc: Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Guttierez
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin
 

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