Critics say problems at State IG's office will persist

The resignation of State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard Friday may end a controversy over charges that Krongard obstructed sensitive investigations, but oversight officials say persistent organizational problems will continue to keep the IG's office from functioning effectively. "Nothing has been changed as a result of the IG resigning in regards to the concerns we raised," Jeffrey Steinhoff, GAO's managing director for financial management and assurance, said Monday.

In an October report, GAO said the State IG's budget had fallen in real terms by about 6 percent since 2001, even as State's overall budget grew by 50 percent. And in testimony before a House panel, Comptroller General David Walker said GAO has warned Congress for 30 years that a 1906 law requiring the State IG to regularly inspect all overseas bureaus eats up most of the office's discretionary budget, leaving little money for other oversight duties.

Though Congress annually waives that inspection mandate, the State IG must budget for it each year. The law, originally meant to ensure President Theodore Roosevelt's control of far-flung embassies, makes little modern sense, critics say.

"If State is going to have scare resources, it ought to be putting its money where the real critical high-risk areas are," said Beverly Lumpkin, an investigator with the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, which is producing a report on inspectors general across government. "That is not vetting every overseas post every five years like clockwork."

GAO has also said the IG's office's reliance on career foreign service officials to head inspection teams and on former State Department managers to fill senior positions limits the office's independence.

House Foreign Affairs Oversight Subcommittee Chairman William Delahunt, D-Mass., is working with GAO on a bill to address problems with the State IG's office. A Delahunt aide said the lawmaker hopes to introduce the measure early next year.

"While I hope that Mr. Krongard will be replaced by a professional from the inspector general community, [GAO] has identified numerous structural problems with the State IG's office, and we will continue our efforts to address those," Delahunt said in statement.

Krongard, who has said he will vacate his post on Jan. 15, has criticized some of the office restrictions. "I did not create this inspection-oriented regime, nor do I necessarily agree with it," Krongard said in a Nov. 8 letter to Delahunt.

In defending himself against charges that he blocked investigations into State Department activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Krongard has said repeatedly that he was influenced by budget constraints. He has pointed to various public statements in which he suggested the office needed more money. Even before his confirmation "it became very obvious to me that the office was significantly underresourced," Krongard said in the same letter, citing his testimony at his confirmation hearing.

In addition, Krongard has also said the IG's office had been hindered by internal battles even before he arrived. "We have enough challenges to focus on without spending energy in rivalries between functional offices," he wrote Friday in an e-mail informing his staff of his resignation.

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