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Lawmakers: Agencies must stop hindering IG investigations

Aug. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Sen. Tom Carper and other government oversight committee leaders called for agencies to turn over documents to inspectors general in a timely manner. (Staff)

Agencies need to better cooperate with inspectors general investigations, lawmakers from both parties wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Aug. 8.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairmen and ranking members of the government oversight committees in both houses of Congress, said OMB needs to ensure that agencies comply with the law and turn over documents to IG investigators quickly.

“Timely and complete access to information is essential if inspectors general are to perform their missions, and their rights to information are clearly provided for in the Inspector General Act of 1978,” they wrote in the letter. “We call on you to underscore this important fact and enlist your office to help ensure that agencies comply.”

The letter was in response to an earlier letter to Congress from 47 inspectors general from across government, who said that agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Peace Corps and the Justice Department have restricted IG access to internal documents. The IGs said that some agencies were interpreting secrecy laws to shield some documents from IG review, but that was in clear conflict with the laws authorizing the IGs to conduct investigations.

The Peace Corps, for example, refuses to provide documents and records related to sexual assaults, while the Justice Department undermines IG authority by narrowly interpreting laws to provide as few documents as possible, the IGs wrote in the letter.

“These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every inspector general and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently and in a timely manner,” the IGs wrote.

“A strong, generally applicable reaffirmation of this Congressional intent, coupled with the use of all available powers to enforce such access when agencies refuse to comply, will assist inspectors general in obtaining prompt and complete agency cooperation,” they wrote in the letter.

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