Four top members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee representing both parties say the U.S. Department of State has gone long enough without an Inspector-General.
In a letter to President Obama, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA; ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD; Subcommittee on National Security Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, who is chairman of the panel's subcommittee on national security; and Rep. John F. Tierney, D-MA, urged the chief executive to make filling the long-standing vacancy a top priority.
"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 four said in the letter. "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-MA, 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 Issa panel held a hearing on IG vacancies on May 10, 2012, and noted at the time that:
• There are currently 10 vacant IG posts. Of those, eight are at agencies where the IG is presidentially appointed.
• Four IG posts have been vacant for more than 1,000 days.
• Five IG vacancies are at cabinet-level departments.
• The State Department has been without a permanent IG for more than four years.
The Inspector-General Act of 1978 established the jobs at cabinet-level agencies in response to revelations of massive waste, fraud and corruption in the federal government during the Carter administration, especially at the General Services Administration.
The IGs then were are all presidential appointees with congressional confirmation, and were intended to be independent from the influence of a department's management. Subsequent legislation expanded the number of IGs, but did not require congressional confirmation of many of the new jobs.
Issa told the May 2012 hearing that "the IGs are the American people's front line of oversight of the executive branch. In FY2009 alone, their audits and investigations identified $43.3 billion in potential savings. Having a robust group of permanent inspectors general at the federal agencies is the best way to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse."
Go here for the complete text of the Jan. 24, 2013 letter to Obama, and here for video of the May 2012 hearing. Go here on the web site of the Project on Government Oversight for a tracking list of IG vacancies across the federal government.