Government Executive: Senators to Obama: Fill the Inspector General Vacancies

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Nearly every recent scandal and lapse involving inspectors general was mentioned at a Wednesday Senate panel hearing as senators from both parties teamed with transparency advocates to push the White House to accelerate nominations to empty watchdog slots.  The White House, however, sent no one to punch back, despite efforts by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to obtain testimony on delayed nominations from Valerie Green, director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and her predecessor Jonathan McBride.  “When IG positions remain unfilled, their offices are run by acting IGs who, no matter how qualified or well-intentioned, are not granted the same protections afforded to Senate-confirmed IGs,” said Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “They are not truly independent, as they can be removed by the agency at any time; they are only temporary and do not drive office policy; and they are at greater risk of compromising their work to appease the agency or the president.”…

“The disadvantage of being acting IG is you have less credibility because there’s no vetting,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of POGO. “There’s an incentive to curry favor with the agency head to get appointed, and they’re often more lapdog than watchdog.”… Brian joined with Daniel Epstein, executive director of the legal group Cause of Action, in an opinion that the longtime acting State Department Inspector General Harold Geisel, a Foreign Service officer ineligible for the permanent job, might not have vetted Clinton’s unusual email arrangements as a permanent IG would have. “Obama’s decision not to appoint a permanent IG at State may have been political,” Epstein said, since “acting IG’s have the incentive not only to delay but to avoid investigations.”  Epstein said Obama should make use of the recess power of appointments as he has done to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. “He is able but not willing,” Epstein speculated.