The State Department has gone without an inspector general for four years, raising concerns that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya could have been averted or, at least, more thoroughly investigated if President Barack Obama had filled the post during his first term.
The last head of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of State was Howard Krongard, who retired in January 2008.
Since Krongard’s departure, the critical role of overseeing an office charged with investigating instances of fraud, waste and mismanagement in the State Department has gone unfilled.
According to the OIG’s website, a key duty of the inspector general is to ensure the safety of State Department facilities: “OIG performs specialized security inspections and audits in support of the Department’s mission to provide effective protection to our personnel, facilities, and sensitive information.”
“The sheriff is out of town,” John Malcolm, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Whether there’s a question about Benghazi, or whether it has to do with fiscal management, or potential criminal wrongdoing, or crossing the political lines like violations of the Hatch Act, it’s important that there be an internal watchdog,” Malcolm added.
Throughout his first term, President Obama has consistently declined to name anyone to lead the OIG.
“You don’t think about these positions until all of a sudden something like this comes up,” Malcolm said. “But there isn’t somebody who is there to investigate the matter and present the facts in a forthright manner.”
The OIG is technically led by Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, who has served since June 2008.
But the lack of an appointed and confirmed head weakens the credibility and efficacy of OIG, according to Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
“It’s actually illegal for that person to continue to be called an acting director, because he was in that position for so long but he was not elevated to be nominated to be the official IG,” Brian told The DCNF. “There is a total lack of leadership, a lack of confidence on the part of that office to take on the difficult tasks, because they don’t have the political cover of someone who’s been confirmed by the Senate to take this important job on.”
“This is not something that you can blame the Senate for not confirming someone, because I’m not hearing of any names being floated, so I think it’s a total lack of interest in having an IG at the State Department,” Brian added. “I think I would blame equally the White House for not pursuing it, and Secretary [of State] Clinton for not pushing for one, either.”
The Washington Post reported in April 2011 that the State Department opposed the appointment of a permanent IG.
But under Geisel’s leadership, the office was criticized in a report by the Government Accountability Office last year, which faulted some of the OIG’s activities — including inspections conducted by the Middle East Regional Office that were not “consistent with generally accepted government auditing standard.”
A spokesperson for GAO declined to comment on OIG’s current state, noting only that GAO conducted the 2011 report because Congress asked it to do so.
“That was testimony that was a direct result of work Congress asked us to do,” said Charles Young, managing director of public affairs at GAO, in an email to The DCNF.
The report’s author has since retired, he said.
Troubles with the OIG — and its Middle East office, in particular — are vexing, given that the Department of Defense is in the process of delegating greater control of the region to the State Department, Brian said.
“The State Department has such an important mission, given that it’s taken over responsibility for Iraq and in theory, in a couple of years, will be doing so in Afghanistan as well,” she said. “To have a vacant office for the entire first term of the Obama administration is inexplicable and totally unacceptable.”
The OIG announced an investigation into security measures in place at U.S. embassies earlier this year.
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