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Biden leaves key federal watchdog positions vacant, grabbing attention of Congress

James Comer sent a letter to Joe Biden listing the different ways that the vacancies could negatively impact U.S. national security. 

Published: June 6, 2023 11:47pm

The Biden administration is garnering some negative attention from Congress for leaving  the chief taxpayer watchdog positions vacant at the Department of State, the Department of Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) addressed a letter to President Joe Biden seeking answers why the key  Inspectors General jobs are still open.

"To date, the U.S. Department of State (State) IG position has been vacant for over 1,100 days with no nominee; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) IG position has been vacant for over 850 days; and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) IG position has been vacant for almost 1,500 days," Comer wrote in the letter Monday.

You can read the full letter here: 

According to the House website, the role of the Inspector General is to "periodically (at least every 5 years) inspect and audit the administration of activities and operations of each Foreign Service post and each bureau and other operating unit of the Department of State, and shall perform such other functions as the Secretary of State may prescribe."

Tristan Leavitt, the President of Empower Oversight, a nonprofit that advocates for government whistleblowers, said the vacancies are harmful for whistleblowers. 

“Inspector General vacancies hamper accountability and are a disservice to whistleblowers," Leavitt said in a statement to Just the News. "The watchdog function is neutered when the White House and Senate slow roll confirmations. Every vacancy is a win for corruption and abuse of power.”

Comer's letter went on to list different ways that the vacancies could negatively impact U.S. national security. 

"We are concerned that you have left prolonged vacancies for the position of IG for State and USAID at a time when State and USAID are engaged in sensitive matters impacting U.S. national security interests around the world," it reads. "These challenges include the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, civil unrest in Sudan, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and increased aggression by China, Iran, and North Korea. The prolonged vacancy for IG at Treasury could also hamper robust oversight of COVID-19 related spending and mitigation of financial risk and instability."

Former Assistant Secretary for Management at U.S. Department of the Treasury David Eisner said that it is important that the vacant positions be filled immediately, but he isn't as keen on the absence of a permanent Inspector General creating a major problem for the Treasury Department. 

"Rep. Comer is correct that it would certainly be a much better practice to fill the IG roles permanently," Eisner said in a statement to Just the News. "I can’t speak to the vacancies at State and USAID, but I do not believe that the absence of a permanent IG has created a significant hole or vulnerability at Treasury. 

"The Deputy IG (essentially, the acting IG) is a long-time career prosecutor," he continued. "My experience with him is that he is as thorough and tough as our former, permanent IG. Most COVID-related oversight is done by the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) had raised these concerns about the vacancies of the Inspector General positions in federal agencies last month. 

Grassley and Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire submitted a letter in May asking Biden to fill the vacancy positions. 

"We write to urge you to swiftly nominate qualified individuals to fill critical Inspector General (IG) vacancies," the letter states. "Inspectors General provide a vital service to the American taxpayer by rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse of federal funds and providing agencies with recommendations on how to be better stewards of public funds.

"In the absence of permanent leadership, IG offices are less able to fulfill their statutory mandate to promote economical, efficient, and effective administration and operation of the government," it continued.

The Department of Treasury, The Department of State, The U.S. Agency for International Development and the White House have not responded for comment.



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