Inspectors General: Lap Dog, Watchdogs, or Junkyard Dogs
In a weekend, edition, the New York Times published a review of Neil Barofsky's book, "Bailout," written by Gretchen Morgeonson, assistant business and financial editor for the Times and co-author of "Reckless Endangerment."
Mr. Barofsky was appointed in 2008 as the Special Inspector General for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) when it was created in the aftermath of the financial meltdown in 2008. Of particular interest in Ms. Morgenson's review concerns Mr. Barofsky's thoughts on the federal Inspectors General. She writes:
"As Mr. Barofsky writes, he had assumed that his assignment to oversee TARP meant that he should be fiercely independent from the Treasury Department, and vigilant against waste, fraud and abuse. But after canvassing other inspector generals for guidance, he writes, he learned of different priorities: maintaining and possibly increasing budgets, appearing to be active — and not making enemies.
"“The common refrain went like this,” Mr. Barofsky writes. “There are three different types of I.G.’s. You can be a lap dog, a watchdog or a junkyard dog.” A lap dog is seen as too timid, he was told. But being a junkyard dog was also ill-advised.
"What you want to be is a watchdog,” he continues. “The agency should perceive you as a constructive but independent partner, helping to make things better for the agency, so everyone is better off.” He also learned, he says, that success as an inspector general meant that investigations come second. Don’t second-guess the Treasury. Instead, “focus on process.”
"Thus the collision course was set between Mr. Barofsky and a crew of complacent, bank-friendly Treasury officials . . . ." (emphasis added)
Bailout looks to be a most interesting read according to Ms. Morgenson's review. Based upon Barofsky's comments about the Inspectors General, it's clear why there seems to be so much waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. For more on the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, click here.