Another Inspector General Bites the Dust

Friday, June 19, 2009

Who would have thought with the arrival of President Barack Obama and his pledge to make government more open and honest, that the most precarious job in Washington would become that of inspectors general (IG)? Since the Obama administration took over, the president has fired the IG for the Corporation for National and Community Service, IG investigations at the Library of Congress have been allegedly interfered with, and now the IG at the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) is being dumped amid claims of files being snatched from their office.

The matter involving USITC’s Acting Inspector General Judith Gwynn was odd from the start. Gwynn has tried to do her job of auditing USITC activities and contracting while only being on temporary status since January 2008, when she first was appointed. Since then USITC officials have kept Gwynn on six-month contracts, and her current contract expires next month. USITC Chairwoman Shara Aranoff recently announced that Gwynn will not be given a new contract—only hours after Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) fired off a letter to the USITC seeking answers for why someone “forcibly” removed files from Gwynn’s office while she was reviewing contractor activities.
Grassley also wants to know how it is that the USITC is allowed to keep its IG on such a short leash through six-month contracts. “I am unaware of any other agency Inspector General that serves under such a constraint and am curious to learn what statutory authority gives the USITC the ability to make a limited term appointment,” Grassley wrote.
Unlike most IGs in the federal government, the USITC’s “watchdog” is classified as a “non-independent” office, giving the holder of the position less independence and flexibility to carry out investigations.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Third Case of Watchdog Interference Alleged (by Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post)


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