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IGs Hindered by Political Pressure

A recent research paper released by Brookings Institute found that the more politicized an agency is, the more difficult it is for inspectors general to be effective.

The paper’s authors, John Hudak and Grace Wallack, specifically pointed to agencies whose chiefs are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, as those with the lowest ROI for IGs.

“Agencies with a higher number of those officials see the most drastic decrease in IG effectiveness,” the report stated. “This result makes intuitive sense given that Senate-confirmed appointees tend to be those closest with the president and among the most political. In that sense, they may protect the president who appointed them, and such protection can include hindering the work of inspectors general seeking to reveal wrongdoing, mismanagement and other practices.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Brookings researchers discovered that agencies with a lower ratio of appointees to career-level managers had more effective IGs. For example, the IG for the Social Security Administration (SSA) had the best ROI of the agencies in the study, perhaps due to the fact the SSA had one of the lowest politicization scores.

While agencies with well-staffed offices are able to offset political pressure more effectively, all IGs are affected by the presence of appointed chiefs.

Nevertheless, one cannot overlook that inspectors general themselves are political appointees and may therefore feel obligated to please the executive branch who appointed them or the Senate who confirmed them.

“These political effects pose real threats to good government and are ultimately costly to the average taxpayer,” the report stated. “Each individual agency action that hinders an IG investigation may not be scandalous or seem major, but taken together those behaviors undermine efforts to stop waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement and other bad practices in government.”

Given the findings, the report recommended Congress foster more and more effective communication with the IGs, in addition to providing more funding to their offices.

Posted in General News

Tags: Brookings Institution, politics, ig reports

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