In May 2012 -- before the presidential election -- Republicans chided President Obama for allowing inspector general spots at key agencies to remain vacant. Today - after the election - those inspector general (IG) spots remain unfilled and Democrats have joined in the chiding.
In a letter to the White House, a bipartisan group of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members urged Obama to quickly fill still-vacant inspector general posts at the major Cabinet-level departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor and State and the Agency for International Development.
"Every year, Inspectors General identify billions of dollars in potential savings, including savings from improved management practices and fines and repayments resulting from investigations," stated the letter. "The value of the Inspectors General goes beyond dollars; these offices also help reveal and prosecute wrongdoing, and promote the integrity of government. They provide invaluable support to Congressional budgeting and oversight work. Inspectors General are an essential component of government oversight."
The letter was signed by committee Majority Chairman Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Delaware) and Minority Chairman Sen. Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), along with a bipartisan group of members that included eight Democrats.
The Senators stressed in the letter that the Department of Homeland Security inspector general vacancy "is extremely troubling, given that the agency faces many management and budget challenges, and the IG's office itself faces allegations of misconduct."
The letter also pointed out that the State Department has now been without a permanent inspector general for five years.
We recognize that acting Inspectors General and career staff carry on the work of their offices during a vacancy, often ably so," stated the letter. "Nevertheless, a sustained absence of permanent leadership is not healthy for any office -- particularly one entrusted with as important and challenging a mission as an Office of Inspector General. Inspectors General occupy a unique role -- tasked with 'speaking truth to power' and with dual reporting obligations to their agency head and to Congress."
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Inspectors general of the Cabinet-level agencies are appointed by the President of the United States without regard to their political party affiliation and must be approved by a simple majority vote of the Senate.