All the scandals coursing through Washington point to the Obama administration's "dereliction of duty" when it comes to appointing inspectors general to vacant positions, says former Defense Department Inspector General Joseph Schmitz.
"With so many scandals breaking in Washington, one may well ask: where were all the inspectors general when these bad things — at the IRS, at Justice, and at State before, during and after Benghazi, for instance — were going on?" he writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Schmitz said that inspector general vacancies persist throughout the administration, with some departments lacking an IG for periods ranging from 18 months to five years.
"The sad truth is that in the Obama administration many of the most important IGs mandated by Congress simply are not in place," Schmitz writes. "For years, President Obama has neglected his duty to fill vacant inspector-general posts at the departments of State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security, and Defense and at the Agency for International Development."
The Inspectors General Act of 1978 created the position to wipe out mismanagement, fraud and other abuses at federal departments and agencies. For example, it was a recent audit by the inspector general at the Treasury Department that brought to light the IRS targeting of conservatives.
"At a time when American confidence in the integrity and transparency of the federal government has been shaken, inspectors general can help Washington get back to basic principles of accountability — but only if the IGs are properly appointed and allowed to do their jobs," Schmitz states.
The magnitude of the IG-vacancy debacle was thrown into relief when three State Department whistleblowers testified to Congress about Benghazi. "One of an IG's many jobs is to protect whistleblowers, but the three said they had suffered reprisals for telling the truth," Schmitz says.
"We are left wondering whether the presence of an independent and effective Senate-confirmed IG at the State Department might have encouraged [those] who were aware of wrongdoing to speak out even earlier, say, in October last year, without fear of reprisal."
That raises the question of how many other whistleblowers around the executive branch aren't being protected by inspector generals, Schmitz says.
"If the president continues to be derelict in his duty to nominate inspectors general for the departments of State, Interior, Labor and Defense, and for the Agency for International Development, he should not expect to know about fraud, waste and abuse in his executive branch agencies — unless and until journalists inform him."
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