Politics

This Watchdog Is So Bad, It Revoked Its Own Investigative Powers

Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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An obscure federal watchdog overseeing the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) revoked his office’s authority to conduct criminal investigations, told agency managers to conduct their own investigations and stopped issuing audits on major projects, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

After AOC Inspector General Kevin Mulshine took control of the 10-person IG office with a $1.8 million budget in September 2013, tasked with holding capitol construction and groundskeeping accountable to the taxpaying public, he rendered his own office’s presence so irrelevant that it only saved taxpayers $7,620 in fiscal year 2015.

“The OIG’s lack of adequate audit planning, lack of criminal investigators, and reliance on AOC program offices to conduct investigation of alleged wrongdoing have contributed to a significant decline in its audit and investigative reports and reported monetary accomplishments,” GAO said. “As a result, AOC management and the Congress may not be fully and currently informed about potential problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of programs and operations of AOC.”

GAO issued the report at the request of Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat and ranking minority member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Congress established the IG in 2007 in response to cost overruns and delays during the construction of the Capitol Visitors Center.

But Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers has the ability to hire and fire the IG, according to GAO, an unusual structure among agencies and their IGs that jeopardizes independence. Ayers was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Neither Schumer nor Ayers responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. Mulshine refused to answer TheDCNF’s questions about his management.

“I wouldn’t have any comment, but thanks anyway. Bye,” Mulshine told TheDCNF before hanging up the phone.

GAO found Mulshine placed responsibility for conducting criminal investigations on the U.S. Capitol Police, which doesn’t have to follow the same investigative and audit standards the IG would. The IG also referred ethics cases to the AOC Office of General Counsel instead of conducting an independent investigation, GAO said.

When the need for administrative investigations arose, the IG told AOC offices to conduct their own investigations, according to GAO. (RELATED: Feds Waste Tons Of Money On Unused Gov’t Property, GAO Report Says)

The IG’s audit planning “did not include either risk assessments or assigned priorities for conducting audits consistent with the standards of the Council of Inspectors General On Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE),” leading to zero reports on large construction projects — like the Capitol dome restoration project — over the last four years, GAO said. The AOC’s so-called “mega projects” had a combined cost of over $1 billion over those four years.

The AOC, in response to the GAO report, claimed it conducted two mega project audits outside the scope of GAO’s report. GAO recommended the IG revise its policies to be consistent with CIGIE standards and that the IG work with CIGIE to obtain a peer review from another IG, to which the IG agreed.

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