A bipartisan group of congressmen in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling on President Barack Obama to appoint an inspector general to the State Department, which has lacked a permanent inspector general for five years.
Oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, (R., Calif.), Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D., Md.), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), and Rep. John F. Tierney, (D., Mass.), urged the president in a letter dated Thursday to fill the long-vacant position.
“The department has not had a Senate-confirmed inspector general since 2008, which is the longest vacancy of any of the 73 inspector general positions across the federal government,” the representatives wrote. “During your entire first term as president, you did not nominate anyone to serve in this critical position. This failure evidences a clear disregard for the Inspector General Act and the will of Congress.”
“In the context of the upcoming confirmation hearings for Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) as your nominee to become the next secretary of state, we are sure that the question of who you plan to nominate to serve as inspector general for the State Department will be a top priority for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle,” the letter continued. Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.
According to the Project on Government Oversight, there are currently eight major federal agencies lacking permanent inspectors general. The State Department has lacked a permanent inspector general for 1,836 days.
Inspectors general are charged with investigating corruption, fraud, and waste in their respective departments. The lack of inspectors general at these agencies means hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are at greater risk of fraud and waste.
A 2008 study by the Government Accountability Office of 95 major defense acquisitions projects found cost overruns of 26 percent, totaling $295 billion over the life of the projects.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that United States organizations lose seven percent of their annual revenues to fraud.
Although some of these agencies have acting inspectors general, government watchdogs argue permanent appointees are less prone to political pressure and understand the agencies they oversee better.
The Oversight Committee held a hearing on inspector general vacancies in May 2012 that concluded a lack of permanent leadership compromises the effectiveness of investigative offices.
President Obama vowed to run the most transparent and open administration in history upon entering office.
“Over the last eight years, government spending on contracts has doubled to over half a trillion dollars,” Obama said in a 2009 speech outlining a new executive directive to improve government contracting. “Far too often, the spending is plagued by massive cost overruns, outright fraud, and the absence of oversight and accountability … We are spending money on things that we don’t need, and we are paying more than we need to pay, and that’s completely unacceptable.”
“So long as I’m president, I won’t stop fighting to cut waste and abuse in Washington,” Obama continued in a 2010 speech.