Top Watchdog Jobs Left Unfilled at Federal Agencies

For Immediate Release

Top Watchdog Jobs Left Unfilled at Federal Agencies

WASHINGTON - At least 15 of the 73 watchdog jobs across the federal
government are vacant or filled by temporary officials, and more
openings could be added under the Senate's financial regulatory reform
legislation, according to an analysis by the Center for Public
Integrity.

The Center's story, "Where are the Watchdogs?" found openings include
inspectors general positions at the State Department, Central
Intelligence Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Labor Department,
and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Also unfilled are the top jobs
at the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistleblowers,
and at the Government Accountability Office, Congress' main
investigative arm.

Over the years, government watchdogs have produced some memorable
investigations, uncovering $434 hammers and $600 toilet seats at the
Pentagon, revealing that federal housing vouchers were still being paid
to dead Americans, and disclosing the FBI’s illegal gathering of phone
records. On a daily basis, their offices investigate more mundane
contracting fraud and employee misconduct and conduct annual audits of
agencies’ accounting books. The inspectors general jobs have come to
symbolize the government’s commitment to accountability and
transparency.

“Inspectors general play an important role in protecting taxpayer
dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse. I am troubled by even a single
prolonged vacancy,” said Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., the chairman of the
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is one of Congress'
main oversight bodies. “I encourage the Obama administration to act
expeditiously in filling these vacancies, and to nominate a new Special
Counsel without delay.”

Many of the watchdog job vacancies have languished for a year or more,
despite calls by President Barack Obama and other politicians for more
accountability in government. The Senate's legislation to overhaul
financial regulation would convert five independently hired inspector
generals at financial oversight agencies to political appointees,
requiring them to be confirmed by a Senate that has been slow to act on
countless nominations. The current holders of those jobs are fighting
the change, suggesting it would jeopardize the political independence
they have enjoyed in aggressively pursuing wrongdoing inside their
agencies.

During his first year in office, the president succeeded in getting
inspectors generals confirmed at NASA, the Education Department, the
Small Business Administration, and the Pentagon. However, his nominee
for inspector general at the EPA has been pending six months and has yet
to be confirmed by the Senate.

The watchdogs' own conduct has also come under scrutiny in recent years.
For example, then-State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard
resigned in December 2007 after a congressional committee questioned his
independence and his oversight of spending in Iraq. A successor has yet
to be nominated. And former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch, whose
office investigates whistleblower’s allegations and protects them from
reprisal, was removed in October 2008 amidst investigations into his own
conduct. He pleaded guilty in April in federal court to one count of
criminal contempt for withholding information from Congress. That job
also remains vacant.

Here's a summary of the 15 watchdog openings, and positions newly
filled:

PRESIDENTIALLY APPOINTED AND VACANT
1.) State Department - Vacant since early 2008. No nominee.
2.) CIA - Vacant since March 2009. No nominee.
3.) Labor Department - Vacant since mid-2008. No nominee.
4.) Export-Import Bank - Vacant since October 2009. No nominee.
5.) Office of Special Counsel - Vacant since October 2008. No nominee.
6.) Comptroller General of the United States - Vacant since March 2008.
No nominee. White House awaiting candidates from  congressional
leadership.
7.) Interior Department - Has had acting inspector general since
February 2009. No nominee.
 
PRESIDENTIALLY APPOINTED, AWAITING
CONFIRMATION
8.) EPA - Arthur Elkins nominated Nov. 18, 2009, pending before full
Senate.
9.) Corporation for National and Community Service - Jon
Hatfield nominated Feb. 22, 2010, may be reported out of Senate labor
committee this week.
10.) Federal Housing Finance Agency - Steve Linick nominated April 12,
2010, pending before Senate Banking Committee.
 
INDEPENDENTLY HIRED AND VACANT
11.) National Endowment for the Arts
12.) Federal Communications Commission
13.) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
14.) Federal Labor Relations Authority
15.) House of Representatives Inspector General
 
RECENTLY FILLED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA:
Pentagon - Gordon Heddell confirmed on July 10, 2009
Small Business Administration - Peggy Gustafson confirmed Sept. 24, 2009
NASA - Paul Martin confirmed on Nov. 20, 2009
Education Department - Kathleen Tighe confirmed on March 10, 2010

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The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.

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