The Problem of Inspector General Vacancies
According to Oversight.gov, the online home of Federal Inspectors General, there are eleven Federal Inspector General vacancies that have been open for more than one year. Seven of those are within Cabinet departments or agencies of Cabinet-rank. In particular, the Department of State has lacked a permanent Inspector General for 474 days (as of 08/31/2021) and the Department of Defense has lacked a permanent Inspector General for a whopping 2,062 days (as of 08/31/2021). Why does this matter?
These vacancies present a significant governance and oversight problem within our federal government. According to Oversight.gov, “the role of federal IGs is to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse relating to their agency’s programs and operations, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the agency’s operations and programs.” Additionally, Federal Inspectors General “are located within their agencies but must conduct their audits, investigations, evaluations, and special reviews independently from their agencies.”
Sound familiar? It should. It sounds a lot like an “independent, objective” function “designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations” (from the The IIA’s Definition of Internal Auditing).
Imagine, for a moment, having only an Acting Chief Audit Executive for your internal audit function for nearly six years, as is the case at the Department of Defense. How would this impact the strategy of your internal audit function? How would it impact day-to-day operations? How would it impact morale?
There can be no doubt that there are thousands of talented professionals working in Offices of Inspectors General throughout the federal government, including those serving in an Acting Inspector General role. They are deserving of our respect and our gratitude for their service. But we know, particularly as internal auditors, the importance of “tone at the top.” And the tone at the highest level of our federal government is sending a clear message that Federal Inspectors General, and by extension Offices of Inspectors General, are not important. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the view of any organization with which the author is affiliated.