One government agency involved in investigating and auditing others has made a series of recommendations for strengthening IG offices, which serve similar functions within agencies.
“IGs must be independent both of mind and in appearance. Threats to independence compromise the integrity of an OIG’s work and limit quality information available to Congress to conduct meaningful oversight over the agency,” a report said.
GAO’s recommendations came as several proposals are pending before Congress to strengthen the powers of IGs and shield them from political interference, following years of disputes over agency cooperation with those offices and several recent removals of permanent or acting IGs by the Trump administration.
Options it raised included: allowing removal of IGs only “for cause”; requiring detailed disclosure of other changes in an IG’s status; more disclosure when issues of an IG’s independence arise; and requiring that any vacancies that arise be filled automatically by the second in command until a new IG is in place.
GAO also addressed another ongoing issue regarding IGs, the number and length of positions being filled on a temporary basis, saying that “given the important role that IGs play, it is critical to nominate and confirm qualified permanent IGs and minimize the duration of vacancies.”
It further raised concerns about persons holding a senior program position in an agency also acting as the IG—a situation that now exists in several departments—saying that such an arrangement is “not consistent with the independence requirements” of professional standards that IGs follow or the purposes of the IG Act.