Like everyone else, Inspectors General retire. When they do, they leave their agencies in the capable hands of an Acting Inspector General until a permanent one can be appointed or confirmed. On top of their management experience, Acting IGs typically have decades of experience in investigations, audits or both. They’re fully capable of leading an office through investigations effectively and continuing the mission against fraud, waste and abuse.
Unfortunately, there are many things Acting Inspectors General cannot do. They can’t provide long-term stability to an agency, because they could be replaced at any point. They generally don’t start transformative initiatives within an office, because they likely won’t be the ones to see them through. Finally, if high-level agency employees are under pressure to make a change, they may decide they can simply wait out an Acting IG’s short tenure. If an Acting IG is nominated to become the permanent IG, these issues fade away; the issue is simply the title.
The limitations are by design. Acting officials are supposed to have a short tenure, because the executive responsible for appointing an agency leader hasn’t determined that individual is the best available fit for the job. Many IG roles must also be confirmed by the Senate, who wants to make good on that opportunity before IGs take on the duties of steering an office toward future needs.
It’s within reason for an office to wait for a couple of months for a permanent leader to be selected. But at some point, an agency suffers from a lack of permanent leadership.
Oversight.gov’s Inspector General Vacancies site points out some truly unreasonable delays at the federal level. The Export-Import bank hasn’t had a permanent IG since Obama’s first term as president. The CIA, Department of Defense and the Office of Personnel Management haven’t had permanent leadership since his second term. In all, eleven agencies haven’t had a permanent Inspector General for more than six months.
Whoever’s fault this is (and in some cases, it’s the Senate’s fault) the idea that a president could go through an entire term without having a permanent official responsible for identifying fraud at a major agency isn’t a good one. That’s especially true when the agency has a budget of $718 billion dollars.
This isn’t an issue that’s likely to be resolved in the next couple of months; we’re too close to a national election for much to transpire between now and November. But once things settle down after the election, the president should make this a major priority on behalf of taxpayers – no matter who that president is.
To learn how CMTS can help your agency close investigative cases more efficiently, call us at 855-667-8877 or email us at Team_CMTS@MyCMTS.com.