The officials, who are charged by Congress with routing out corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse within their respective agencies, warned that the consequences of the obstructionism could be dire. Critics and lawmakers seized on the letter as further evidence that the administration marketed as the “most transparent” in history has become exactly the opposite.
In all, 47 inspectors general from across the federal government — many of them appointed by Obama — wrote to Congress this month warning that their work and investigations were being unlawfully impeded. Among other concerns, the officials cited denial of access to documents, wild interpretations of statutes purporting to authorize the stonewalling, undermining the independence of the inspectors general, and similar tactics being used by top administration officials. Analysts said the scheming was merely an extension of Obama’s ongoing “war on transparency.”
“This is an administration that pledged to be the most transparent in history,” observed Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement about the letter. “Yet, these non-partisan, independent agency watchdogs say they are getting stonewalled. How are the watchdogs supposed to be able to do their jobs without agency cooperation? Inspectors General exist to improve agencies and get the most bang for every tax dollar. This letter underscores the need for congressional review and possibly legislative action.”
Especially problematic, the federal watchdogs said in their letter to congressional leaders, were the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. Both of those federal entities, of course, have been at the center of seemingly never-ending scandals under the current administration, ranging from violating record-keeping laws and ripping off taxpayers to arming Mexican drug cartels and trying to cover it up by lying to Congress under oath. Another agency highlighted in the letter as troublesome was the so-called Peace Corps.
“The undersigned federal Inspectors General write regarding the serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General,” the 47 officials wrote in the August 5 letter to bipartisan leaders of major congressional committees. “Refusing, restricting, or delaying an Inspector General’s access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance.”
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