Homeland Security watchdog accused of whitewashing report

Brendan Bordelon | Contributor

The man in charge of policing waste, fraud and abuse at the federal government’s third-largest department has been accused of suppressing a politically sensitive report, violating anti-nepotism laws and misusing agency resources, according to a letter from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

Charles Edwards, deputy inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security and de facto head of the office, was ordered by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson to provide sixteen separate document sets related to the allegations by July 19.

“This is supposed to be the most transparent administration in history, but we’re seeing a real pattern of this White House and their secretaries applying pressure to inspectors general to whitewash reports,” Johnson said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The letter claims Edwards intentionally changed and withheld information from both the public and internal reports on the solicitation of prostitutes by U.S. Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia last year.

Johnson believes the suppression may have been done at the direction of political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security, raising doubts about the office’s independence from the agency it’s tasked with investigating.

Numerous other allegations came from over a dozen current or former employees and vary widely. Whistle-blowers claim that Edwards illegally employed his wife as an auditor within his office, obtaining improper benefits for her in the process.

In one instance, Edwards reportedly pressured subordinates to approve his wife’s seven-month teleworking stint in India and provided a government-issued Blackberry cellphone for her personal use while abroad.

He also stands accused of misusing federal funds by traveling regularly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida under the guise of conducting routine inspections of a local inspector general’s office. In reality, whistle-blowers allege that Edwards was attending Ph. D classes at Nova Southeastern University, billing airline tickets, car rentals and hotel fees to the federal government.

There have also been allegations that Edwards used government-issued vehicles to run personal errands and retaliated against employees who questioned his activities by placing them on administrative leave.

The government accountability group Cause of Action informed TheDC News Foundation that they have been investigating the inspector general for over a year.

“Cause of Action has been made aware, through DHS insiders, that Edwards potentially destroyed complaints filed by his own employees,” said Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director. “If this allegation proves to be true, Edwards could be facing time in prison.”

The Department of Homeland Security has been without a Senate-confirmed inspector general since February 2011. Charles Edwards assumed leadership of the office as acting inspector general at that time, but was forced by the Federal Vacancies Act to return to his position as Deputy inspector general in January of this year.

The Obama administration nominated Roslyn Mazer to be inspector general in July 2011, but she withdrew her nomination in June 2012 following a contentious confirmation hearing. The administration has yet to name a replacement nominee.

“This administration has a history of not filling inspector general positions,” Johnson said, pointing to vacancies at the Departments of State, Interior, Labor and Defense. “Those departments represent more than 50 percent of federal discretionary spending, and they’re all without a full-time inspector general.”

Johnson emphasized that his committee was committed to discovering the truth behind the explosive allegations. “The fact that the chairwoman [Sen. McCaskill] joined in our request for information shows how seriously we’re taking this,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to his prompt response to our request for information,” the senator concluded.

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