Report faults State IG's management, but not motives

State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard has been an unpopular boss who often dressed down employees and nixed travel requests, according to documents released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and interviews. But at a hearing today, Krongard and committee Republicans will argue that his actions have not been politically motivated.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Callif., has highlighted accusations by State Department IG employees who say Krongard blocked a series of investigations into contractor fraud and other malfeasance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a Sept. 18 letter, Waxman cited allegations that Krongard stopped investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into problems with construction of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, prevented employees from traveling to Afghanistan to seize evidence of procurement fraud and improperly alerted the target of an investigation about an impeding probe.

Witnesses said Krongard "interfered with ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and White House from political embarrassment," Waxman wrote. But in a 117-page report to be released today, the committee's minority staff, quoting witness depositions, said while many staffers were frustrated by Krongard's style and decisions, no evidence has emerged that his motives were partisan.

A longtime private-sector auditor, Krongard had the type of experience that would have appealed to Waxman, who faulted President Bush in a 2004 report for appointing political operatives as inspectors general instead of professional auditors.

Krongard, the new GOP staff report notes, has made contributions to both political parties.

Committee interviews show many IG employees believed Krongard acted to protect the administration. Some pointed, in particular, to a delay of an investigation into corruption by an unnamed senior State Department official whom Krongard knew. But all witnesses, some of whom left their posts under pressure, conceded they had not seen evidence of Krongard's motives.

"The perception among us at the worker bee ... levels, was that he was trying to protect the administration. That was our perception, rightly or wrongly," State Department investigator Brian Rubendall told the committee.

Krongard has said budget restrictions and concerns about his staff's ability influenced his decisions. And while the minority report blasts Waxman for quickly publicizing charges about Krongard's possible political motives, both sides agree Krongard was hard on staff, blocking creativity and driving off many employees by publicly assailing their abilities.

But some backed Krongard's self-description as an "equal-opportunity offender."

"I consider him apolitical in that he'll give anybody, any time, anywhere, a hard time," Deputy Inspector General William Todd said in a deposition.

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