WASHINGTON – Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George had his turn in the hot seat on Wednesday, when House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa took him to task for not informing Congress of the inappropriate actions taken by the IRS as soon as he became aware of them.
In hearings over the past few days before the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, George has been the golden boy, spared as ex-IRS commissioners Steven Miller and Douglas Shulman bore the brunt of the questioning and the criticism.
But Issa took issue with George not informing Congress immediately.
“You have a responsibility to keep us continuously and, according to statute, equally informed,” Issa said. “In this case, it appears as though you certainly did not.”
“On what day did you know, over this year period, did you know personally that in fact the IRS had abused Americans’ process of approval. What was that day? What was the ‘aha’ moment, and didn’t you have an obligation to report that to Congress at that time?” Issa asked.
George said he did not feel he had been derelict in his duty to inform congress, and said that he was following the process to ensure fairness.
“There are established procedures for conducting an audit,” George explained. “And to ensure fairness and to ensure that we are completely accurate with the information that we convey to Congress, we will not put forth information until the IRS has had an opportunity to take a look at it and ensure that we’re not mistaking facts.”
George added that it would be “impractical for us to give you partial information” which could be incorrect.
Issa, however, was unmoved, saying statute required that the inspector general not “keep us in the dark” until the investigation was concluded.
Grae Stafford contributed to this report.