Are Government Watchdogs Being Gutted?
On Friday, former Inspector General (Corporation for National and Community Service) Gerald Walpin raises the issue in a National Review Online article of whether federal inspectors general are being intimidated by the Obama administration. He raises the question this way:
"Among all the unanswered questions about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative organizations, one is most crucial: Who ordered this extreme scrutiny?
"Amazingly, IRS inspector general J. Russell George, responsible for the investigation asking those questions about the IRS, has testified that he did not obtain that information.
"Details of that testimony are interesting . . . ."
After further explanation, Walpin concludes:
"Similar questions have been raised about other IGs who somehow have been discarded. Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold, Treasury special IG Neil Barofsky, and International Trade Commission IG Judith Gwynn all left their positions after disputes that weren’t appreciated by the administration, giving more reason for others to go easy with the administration. Further, the president has significantly failed to fill IG vacancies in important agencies (State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security, and USAID) – well-documented by former IG Joseph Schmitz — demeaning the importance of the IG position.
"This administration’s treatment of IGs is not conducive to active, independent, and objective inspectors general, and explains at least in part why key questions about the IRS still have not been asked or investigated."
Growls' readers are encouraged to read Mr. Walpin's entire article because it contains the full explanation behind his charge.
There's more, however. Also last Friday, Newsmax's Paul Scicchitano reports on an interview with former DoD inspector general Joseph Schmitz. Here is how Scicchitano begins:
"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."
An article posted at U.S. News & World Report by David Brodwin reports on why truly independent inspectors general are needed at every government agency. Here's the background to Brodwin's reporting:
"Last week, a newly-released government report revealed widespread dysfunction and special dealing in the energy market. The study, completed by the Inspector General's Office, examined how the Bureau of Land Management negotiates leases of federal lands containing coal deposits. This study plus earlier investigations found that the Bureau fails to collect the fair market value of the coal extracted. We, the taxpayers, own these public lands and the coal on them. We are being shortchanged.
"The practices uncovered in the report are an affront to anyone who believes in a market economy. Vigorous competition is essential for a robust economy. It promotes innovation and brings discipline to inefficient producers. Unfortunately, the market for coal lands is not competitive; it has been deliberately distorted to protect and subsidize incumbents. Ironically, the business interests that take greatest advantage of federal favors are often the ones that protest most strongly against government investment in alternative energy."
And finally, Brodwin explains just "how bad a deal" the "current arrangement" really is:
"By law, leases for coal on federal land are supposed to reflect the fair market value of the coal on hand. But, according to a report last year by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the leases have fallen short of market value by $29 billion over a 30 year period, or roughly $1 billion per year.
"This underpricing is massive relative to the size of the deals. It amounts to a 30 percent to 50 percent discount below a fair and reasonable price. The lost value is enough to hire more than 20,000 elementary school teachers. (Most recent media coverage focused on the wrong number: a figure of $62 million, which represents just a small part of the problem of undervalued leases.)"
Kudos to former IG Walpin for raising an important question in regards to the current IRS scandal.