Inspectors General Want Expanded Powers, Survey Finds

Photo: Flickr user theilr

The federal government’s roster of inspectors general view themselves as rendering a valuable service in orienting newcomers in the next administration to potential risks and informing them about management tools, according to a survey released Tuesday. Most also favor passage of a Senate-cleared bill to expand their authority to obtain documents withheld by agencies.

“The successful transition to a new administration presents a unique opportunity to make new leaders aware of the value of what IGs can do and to help the new administration make positive changes,” stated a report on the results of the survey, which was conducted by the Association of Government Accountants and Kearney & Co.

The survey, conducted in June, queried 66 IGs from large and small agencies on such topics as resource allocation, budgets, cybersecurity, data analytics, human resources and information technology auditing. It comes two weeks after a similar survey from the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton Public Sector.

When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president in 1981, the report notes, he asked for the resignations of all IGs, whose posts were created in the 1978 Inspector General Act.  Now, the study noted, most IGs stay on to straddle presidencies.

Asked to name their challenges, many respondents cited lengthy vacancies in IG slots, which can be the fault of the president for delaying nominations, or due to delays in the Senate confirmation process. Theys also identified the federal hiring system as an obstacle: Only 29 percent of those surveyed said the hiring process produces sufficient pool of qualified candidates, and only 12 percent said hiring is done in a timely manner.

Respondents also complained that mandated requirements limit their ability to address risk areas. Most support the Inspector General Empowerment Act, which would clarify their statutory authority to conduct independent oversight.

Most of those surveyed said implementing the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act has not been burdensome. And most approved of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency as their voice.

When it comes to addressing risks to federal organizations, “while IGs can contribute to the identification of risks, they draw the line at direct involvement in implementing” enterprise risk management, the survey found. Oversight of information security is where IGs would most like to place additional resources.

“The IGs have a great deal of agency knowledge and data-informed opinions about key risk areas in the organization that should be shared with the incoming administration leaders,” said Ann M. Ebberts, AGA’s chief executive officer. “I’m hoping these new leaders make it a priority to meet with, and listen to, what IGs have to offer.”

Photo: Flickr user theilr

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