Obama Gutted 'Heart and Soul' of Government Watchdogs, Former Official Says

Friday, 14 Jun 2013 08:11 PM

By Paul Scicchitano

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A former Defense Department inspector general is calling on Congress to step in and fill the void left by President Barack Obama's failure to appoint watchdogs over key agencies, saying the president has gutted the "heart and soul" of a longstanding law mandating the appointments.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax after he addressed Capitol Hill aides on Friday, Joseph Schmitz described the president's failure to appoint Senate-confirmed inspectors general in six of the largest federal agencies responsible for billions of dollars in taxpayer money as a "scandalous" attempt to "flout" congressional oversight.

Schmitz is calling on one of two congressional committees with responsibility for the Inspector General Act of 1978 -- either the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, or the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee -- to appoint someone in each agency on a temporary basis where the president failed to nominate a Senate-confirmed inspector general.

"You have six major federal agencies, four in the national security space, that simply have not had any confirmed IG for years," said Schmitz, a Newsmax contributor. "And there don't seem to be any prospects for this president even nominating anybody for these positions."

The State Department, for example, has not had a Senate-confirmed inspector general since Jan. 16, 2008, according to Schmitz.

He said the presidentially appointed IGs are required to pledge that they will return to Congress when they are called to testify, make semi-annual reports to Congress, and bring to the attention of Congress any serious deficiencies they uncover.

Schmitz, who is the author of the recently released "Inspector General Handbook," said that while there is no precedent for Congress to appoint temporary watchdogs, the Department of Justice has adopted a process to name independent monitors in the case of corporations that face criminal prosecution.

"This is an extraordinary measure to deal with the deficiencies in the same way that an independent monitorship for a deficient private company which might go out of business, or be indicted, or both. We look for an extraordinary measure as a transitional measure to get the entity back up to speed," he said. "So this is, by design, not a permanent solution."

Under his proposal, Schmitz says the chairman and ranking members of the committee would invite the agency heads to nominate three people to serve on a temporary basis.

"The chairman and the ranking members can literally appoint an independent monitor to be assigned to work with that agency on a regular basis -- monthly, quarterly, whenever -- and come back and independently report on what the IG should have been reporting on," said Schmitz.

He said there would not be any additional costs beyond what has already been budgeted.

"The [congressional] committee members could say: 'We want you to take the money that we've already appropriated ... for your IG that you're not spending right now because you don't have an IG,'" Schmitz explained.

In addition to the 5-year-old State Department IG vacancy, which dates back to the start of Obama's first term, another five agencies lack a Senate-confirmed inspector general for 538 days or more: the Department of the Interior; Department of Labor; Department of Homeland Security; Agency for International Development; and the Department of Defense.

Schmitz said the federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 allows for acting inspectors general to serve "for no longer than 210 days beginning on the date the vacancy occurs, with some limited opportunities to extend that time for another 210 days."

"The president simply doesn't want to be accountable and doesn't want to have IGs, apparently, and he seems to be getting away with it," said Schmitz, who spoke at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Friday.

The recent IRS targeting scandal was brought to public attention through an investigation by the Senate-confirmed Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, while there was no such person to investigate the facts surrounding the attack last September on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

As a result, Schmitz said, disclosures have come through government whistleblowers, who have suffered repercussions to their careers in some instances.

"It's a matter of checks and balances," said Schmitz.


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