Inspectors generals' offices aren't immune to budget woes, and some of the government's front-line watchdogs say sequestration has limited their ability to expose waste, fraud and corruption, according to a survey of IG offices.
"Many of the offices we interviewed indicated that they are at stagnant or reduced resource levels at a time when requirements and program complexity are increasing," according to the report by the Association of Government Accountants.
Most of the IGs said their shrinking budgets are one of their top challenges. One office had cut staff by 13 percent, and another said its staff was at its lowest level since 1978, when the IG offices were created.
The reduced staff levels mean IG offices have also cut back on the number and scope of their audits. IGs investigate mismanagement, waste and misuse of taxpayer dollars, and fraud. One notable recent IG report was the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report that showed IRS targeting of conservative groups.
With billions in wasteful spending to trim across government, the IG offices shouldn't be bearing the brunt of across-the-board cuts, Project on Government Oversight spokesman Joe Newman told the Washington Examiner.
"The savings are small, but the impact is huge," he said.
Oversight by IGs saves billions of dollars each year, and cutting their resources is penny wise but pound foolish, Newman said. "If we want to get serious about cutting waste in government … we need to look at the things that are significant drains on our budget."
The government often doesn't spend enough on oversight, said Tom Fitton, president of watchdog group Judicial Watch. But IG offices are government agencies, and should be more focused on the quality than the quantity of their reports.
Of more concern are the multiple IG permanent appointments left unfilled by President Obama, Fitton said. The top posts at seven offices are currently held by acting IGs.
Temporary IGs lack the independence of a permanently appointed IG and are more likely than a permanent appointee to release watered-down reports rather than offending superiors, Fitton said.
Several current nominees already hold the top position at other IG offices, and would leave a vacancy behind them. Scott Dahl, President Obama's pick to be the Department of Labor IG, is currently IG at the Smithsonian Institution, and Steve Linick, Obama's State Department nominee, would leave his current post at the Federal Housing Finance Agency empty.