By Columnist Jim Kouri
When candidate Barack Obama promised to deliver historic federal government transparency in his Presidential administration, few would have guessed that about six years later more than half of the federal government’s inspectors general (IGs) would blast the Obama administration for its lack of transparency and its stonewalling of their investigations into allegations of fraud, misconduct, abuse and other malefactions.
In a letter sent to lawmakers in both houses of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, the watchdogs claimed they are facing an unprecedented challenge in overseeing their respective agencies under the current scandal-plagued White House.
During an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the letter unprecedented. “I’ve never seen a letter like this, and my folks have checked – there has never been a letter even with a dozen IGs complaining. This is the majority of all inspectors general saying not just in the examples they gave, but government wide, they see a pattern that is making them unable to do their job.” Issa chairs the House Oversight Committee which has been at the forefront of numerous probes of Obama-related scandals.
According to the letter, 47 of the executive branch’s 73 supposedly independent inspectors general complained to Senate and House of Representatives leaders in bother political parties that a number of major government agencies such as the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and other enforcement departments, of failing to give unfettered access to records entitled to peruse as part of their oversight and investigative functions.
The purpose of their eight-page letter is to urge lawmakers to help them perform their duties in preventing or uncovering fraud, mismanagement and lawbreaking by government officials whose power continues to expand with each new law or executive fiat. The letter claims that a number of Obama administration agency heads and their minions are withholding information by calling it “privileged.”
“Each of us strongly supports the principle that an Inspector General must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that Inspector General’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens,” the chairmen and ranking members of Senate and House committees stated.
“Agency actions that limit, condition, or delay access thus have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs,” the signatories noted.
In the letter, the IGs warn that using the label of “privileged” poses “potentially serious challenges to the authority of every inspector general and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Wednesday said, “”If we are ever to successfully confront the challenges that lie before us as a nation, Congress and the American people need accurate information about where and how taxpayer money is spent.”
An example of the stonewalling the IGs face is the case of the Peace Corps withholding reports of sexual assaults against its volunteers. Meanwhile at Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, the letter claims the nation’s top law enforcement agency withheld records for three reviews.
The letter writers also alleged that the ultra-powerful – some claim lawless – EPA gave their inspector general a hard time obtaining documents from the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board for a separate investigation. The letter also reminds the lawmakers that the Inspector General Act of 1978 – passed by a Democratic House and Senate and signed by President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat – guarantees inspectors general possess “complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials ... without unreasonable administrative burdens.”