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THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

For over 100 years now the United States Congress has been shedding its responsibility as a governing body and assigning actual responsibility for managing the U.S. government to a smorgasbord of federal agencies.  Rather than attempting the impossible task of expecting 535 men and women who hate each other to manage the affairs of 325 million people, Congress created the Congressional Oversight Committee in which 42 men and women who hate each other would oversee the actions of the 73 federal agencies that had been created to manage the affairs of said 325 million people.  In 1978, despite potentially losing the opportunity to grandstand on TV by yelling at the heads of the agencies they themselves had appointed,  Congress came to the conclusion that trying to oversee the federal leviathan they had created in lieu of an actual government was taking too much time from important Congressional duties such as dedicating bridges and passing resolutions in honor of things like National Cucumber Day (there being only so many hours in the available 80 annual work days).  So they created the Office of the Inspector General.

Now free from actually having to do anything productive, Congress assigned to the OIG the responsibility:

“(1) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the establishments listed in section 12”

“(2) to provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies for activities designed (A) to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of, and (B) to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in, such programs and operations.”

“(3) to provide a means for keeping the head of the establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of such programs and operations and the necessity for and progress of corrective action.”

By statute, the president appoints, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Inspector General of some government agencies.  However the vast majority of IGs do not need Senate approval.  Instead, they are appointed by and report to the head of the agency.

That’s right, the head of the agency reserves the right to appoint the person who is responsible for investigating the agency for fraud or abuse.  What could possibly go wrong?

Inspector Generals are viewed by employees of the agencies with the same high regard police officers view Internal Affairs personnel.  Exposing any wrong doing to an IG will likely result in the exposer getting fired.  While possibly created with good intent, Inspector Generals have devolved into a guardian of the agencies they are supposed to be supervising and investigating.  Too often the Office of Inspector General is used to persecute whistleblowers.  Inspector Generals have become the new Praetorian Guard.

The relevancy of this is that Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice and an Obama era appointee, has just announced that he will be conducting an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by former FBI Director James Comey in the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation and possible improprieties in Comey’s investigation of Donald Trump.

Any guesses on how this turns out?

 

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