An AmeriCorps volunteer picks up wood and debris from the remains of a home in Joplin, Mo. The inspector general's office for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which handles oversight of AmeriCorps, will have to lay off most of its staff after having its budget slashed. (Julie Denesha / Getty Images)
The inspector general's office for the Corporation for National and Community Service will have to lay off most of its staff and limit oversight work after Congress slashed its budget by almost half, a top official has warned lawmakers.
Under a catch-all spending bill approved last month, the office's funding was cut from $7.7 million last year to $4 million in fiscal 2012, Kenneth Bach, deputy inspector general said in a Jan. 9 letter to leading members of the House and Senate appropriations committees. The White House had sought about $8.5 million for the IG's office.
Bach said he expects to cut at least three-quarters of his 33-person staff through a reduction-in-force at the end of March. Bach said he has already curtailed most investigations for lack of travel money. Some probes have been referred to the Justice Department and will continue to be pursued, he added. But it is unclear whether the office will be able to carry out any additional investigations or discretionary audits this year.
Last year, IG auditors released 21 reports, including 13 audits of corporation grant recipients, Bach said. During the same period, investigators opened 42 cases and closed 35, with a recovery of almost $450,000 in stolen or misused funds, Bach said.
"I hope that you can be of some assistance in mitigating the impact of this severe and damaging funding reduction," Bach told congressional appropriators in the letter.
In its role as inspector general for the corporation, Bach's office handles oversight of AmeriCorps, VISTA and other programs. He called the cuts a surprise and said he knew of no other inspector general's office receiving similar reductions.
A spokesman for Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, blamed Republicans for the reductions. Spokespersons for House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who heads the appropriations subcommittee that helps set the IG's budget, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
In June 2009, President Obama fired then-IG Gerald Walpin after he clashed with federal prosecutors in California over an investigation involving the mayor of Sacramento, according to press reports at the time. Last November, the White House nominated Washington lawyer Deborah Jeffrey to fill the job permanently; Bach continues to lead in the meantime.