Grijalva, Cox Request Funding Bump for DOI Oversight Office as Sec. Nominee Faces Conflicts of Interest, Complaints Up 48 Percent Over Past Four Years
Washington D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations today requesting a $2.5 million funding increase for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for fiscal year 2020.
In today’s letter, available at http://bit.ly/2WIoxv4, the lawmakers highlight the 48 percent increase in complaints received by the OIG since FY2015. The OIG is currently unable to fully address areas of particular risk – including fraud, mismanagement, and malfeasance – even as the scandal-prone Trump administration continues to make headlines for Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt’s conflicts of interest. Former Secretary Ryan Zinke was the subject of nearly 20 investigations, four of which are ongoing.
The members write today:
Because of funding and staffing shortfalls, the OIG has been increasingly unable to take up investigation requests from Congress and from within DOI… Acting Secretary David Bernhardt shows little signs of reducing the workload on the OIG; he and several other high-ranking DOI political appointees were formerly lobbyists for or employees of the industries they now regulate. The complicated financial interests and lack of previous public-sector experience characteristic of many serving in the Trump administration create a challenging environment for ethical watchdogs at DOI and across the executive branch.
Bernhardt has been unacceptably slow to respond to Committee document and information requests since becoming Acting Secretary, and he continues to send agency witnesses to hearings who have proven unable to answer Democratic questions about agency policies and conduct.
A report last year by the OIG found that Bernhardt led the mass reassignment of DOI Senior Executive Service employees without documenting the justification, which prevented the OIG from concluding whether the reassignments were done according to law. More recently, the Natural Resources Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee expressed concerns that recently proposed DOI changes to the handling of Freedom of Information Act requests would obstruct legitimate citizen inquiries.
Adequate OIG funding provides generous returns in government efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency. According to the Partnership for Public Service, the OIG has a 20:1 return on investment. An additional $2.5 million will give the OIG 13 new full-time employees to help keep up with the office’s steadily increasing workload.
Adam Sarvana (Grijalva)
(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile
Andrew Godinich (Cox)
firstname.lastname@example.org or (713) 819-2675
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