President Trump should act immediately to fill vacant inspector general positions, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers is urging.
More than a dozen senators and House members signed their names to a pair of letters to the president, including the leadership of both chambers' executive branch oversight committees. The unfilled positions, the lawmakers said, threaten public safety, taxpayer dollars and the independence of the inspectors general.
Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, authored a letter to Trump on Monday, and Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, were joined by five Democrats and five Republicans to make their case to the president.
There are 11 current IG vacancies, according to the Project on Government Oversight. The Interior Department has not had a confirmed IG for more than seven years. Vacancies at the departments of Energy and Defense, as well as the Export-Import Bank, CIA, Office of Personnel Management and U.S. Postal Service have also persisted for more than one year.
“Inspectors general are essential to the functions of the federal government,” Chaffetz and Cummings wrote. “IGs also provide countless benefits to taxpayers. For every dollar invested in IGs, there is an estimated return of investment of $14; or $36.6 billion in fiscal year 2015 alone.”
The Trump administration has taken steps to find candidates for the vacancies, the senators noted in their letter, meeting with the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to review potential IGs. They asked Trump to take “swift action” to fill the positions, noting the individuals currently serving in acting capacities are not an adequate substitute for a confirmed official.
“While many acting IGs have served admirably in the absence of permanent leadership, the lack of a permanent leader threatens to impede the ability of these offices to conduct the oversight and investigations necessary to ensure taxpayer dollars are protected, public safety risks are identified, and that whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse are protected,” the senators wrote. They added the lack of confirmed IGs could create potential conflicts of interest.
The senators offered to work with the administration to identify “qualified and capable candidates for these positions.”