It seems to be hiding a lot of things in a lot of places.
In what must be the most under-reported story of the past year, some two thirds of the inspectors general in the government think the administration is stonewalling their lawful efforts to oversee government activities.
Three of them testified Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee, newly chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Many others were in the room.
In an August 2014 letter to Congress, 47 Inspectors General from across the administration – including major agencies like the Department of Commerce, the Department of HUD, the Department of Labor, and NASA -supported specific complaints by their fellow IGs in the Peace Corps, EPA and DOJ about foot dragging and lawyer-driven end-runs, and suggested the practice is pervasive.
We have learned that the Inspectors General for the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (in his role as Inspector General for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board) and the Department of Justice have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas. In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act. These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.
the issues facing the DOJ OIG, the EPA OIG, and the Peace Corps OIG are not unique. Other Inspectors General have, from time to time, faced similar obstacles to their work, whether on a claim that some other law or principle trumped the clear mandate of the IG Act or by the agency’s imposition of unnecessarily burdensome administrative conditions on access. Even when we are ultimately able to resolve these issues with senior agency leadership, the process is often lengthy, delays our work, and diverts time and attention from substantive oversight activities. This plainly is not what Congress intended when it passed the IG Act.
Can anyone imagine if the Bush administration were accused of such stonewalling, what a firestorm there would be?
Here is panel member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) discussing the problem last night with Greta Van Sustern.
“I think in some instances, they are hiding things” said Gowdy, who said agencies that don’t cooperate with their IGs should have their budgets cut.