Inspectors General Express Frustration with Slow Hiring, Cyber-Threats

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Many of the 72 federal inspectors general fear that this year’s data breach at the Office of Personnel Management could affect the willingness of individuals and agencies to share data for program management and oversight purposes, a new survey found.

Half those responding to the third annual survey by the Association of Government Accountants and Kearney & Co. said that if they received additional resources, they would direct them to information security- related audits.

Respondents also revealed that IGs are not equally enthusiastic in support of their Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. “The individual IGs are extremely independent,” the survey report said. “As much as they want CIGIE to advocate for them on matters of community interest, there are others who said they ‘do not want CIGIE to speak for me’ and feel that independence is more important than ‘everyone rowing in the same direction.’ While this independence is a strength of IGs and critical to effectively executing the responsibilities of the position,” the report said, “it seems to hamper collaboration and cooperation within the community.”

The IG council is currently involved in a push for legislation to give IGs greater access to agency documents currently blocked by law or by managers who see risks to privacy. But in the survey, only 15 percent said their work in past year was delayed due to a dispute with management over access to information or a dispute over IG authority.

More broadly, the survey showed that IGs continue to be challenged with tight budgets, an ineffective federal hiring process and one-size fits-all mandated requirements, the analysis said. “Many of the IGs we spoke with called for direct hiring authority, in order to enable them to quickly fill needed positions in lieu of the lengthy and seemingly ineffective federal hiring process.” About 39 percent of respondents online said the timeliness of the current hiring process was adequate, 43 percent said it was lengthy and results in delays, and 18 percent said it needed significant reengineering.

The watchdogs also called for more flexibility when it comes to mandated audits so they can apply risk-based criteria within their respective agencies to better focus their oversight audits and evaluations. Among those new mandates are the data format standardization requirements under the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act now being implemented. Fully 75 percent characterized the impact of the DATA Act on their operations when fully implemented as “some disruption but shall be manageable.”

The survey results indicate the IGs are moving toward more-efficient approaches, such as the use of risk-based data analytics to better target audit areas, and a “shift to leverage evaluations that streamline the traditional audit process.”

Most appear to get along well with their home agency leaders; asked whether they believe their office and agency have the same view of the authority of the IG to carry out his or her responsibilities, 85 percent said “yes.”

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