Grijalva: GOP Just Voted to Protect Secretary Zinke From Accountability by Denying Full Funding for DOI Inspector General

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago the House Republican majority voted down Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva’s (D-Ariz.) amendment to the Department of the Interior (DOI) funding bill that sought to increase the DOI Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) funding by $2.5 million. Grijalva said the vote shows how stubbornly Republicans refuse to hold Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke or the rest of the Trump administration’s DOI appointees accountable for their multiple scandals, policy failures and embarrassing missteps.

In addition to the funding increase, Grijalva’s amendment authorizes the hiring of five new auditors to address contracts and financial assistance, five investigators to focus on administrative issues, and up to six new investigators in field offices to allow OIG criminal investigators to focus on criminal misconduct.

“Secretary Zinke is already the most scandal-plagued Interior secretary in recent memory, and House Republicans just voted against holding him accountable,” Grijalva said today. “They’re comfortable passing a trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich but won’t spend two and a half million dollars on a watchdog agency that protects the public and saves taxpayers money. Something is very wrong with this picture.”

Zinke is the subject of at least 14 formal government investigations, more than the last four Interior secretaries combined. The DOI Office of the Inspector general is handling the bulk of those efforts, with others taking place at the Office of Special Counsel and the Government Accountability Office. Current OIG funding and staffing levels have proven inadequate given OIG’s overwhelming workload of investigations and financial audits.

Increasing OIG’s funding would have a positive economic impact, as the office’s work generates an approximately 20-to-1 return to taxpayers. Even as DOI awarded approximately $10 billion in financial assistance and contracts in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, the number of OIG audits dropped roughly 16 percent. Contracts and financial assistance are some of the highest risk areas in terms of the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse.

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