Federal Watchdogs Facing New Scrutiny

By Justin Rood

May 8, 2007 2:18pm

Four of the federal government’s top watchdogs have found themselves under investigation recently, a trend experts call unprecedented and troubling. The men are inspectors general, known in Beltway parlance as "IGs" — special senior political appointees who serve at each federal agency to expose and remedy instances of government waste, fraud and abuse.  Instead, they have found themselves facing investigations into allegations including fraud, wasteful spending and abuse of power. Four IGs under simultaneous investigation "would be a record," confirmed Paul Light, a professor of government at New York University who wrote the definitive tome on the role and history of inspectors general. "They’re supposed to be a bulwark against this stuff." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The four men are: – Robert "Moose" Cobb, the IG at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), under investigation by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) for charges of interfering with investigations, improper ties to NASA leadership; – Johnnie Frazier, the IG at the Commerce Department, investigated by PCIE, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and a congressional committee for charges of wasteful spending, contracting abuse, discriminatory employment practices, fraud; – Stuart Bowen, the Special IG for Iraq Reconstruction, investigated by PCIE as well as congressional Republicans for charges that include wasteful spending and misleading reporting; – Bill Roderick, the IG at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), investigated by a congressional committee for his controversial plan to cut 60 investigators from his staff and give himself a $15,000 bonus. Cobb has not commented publicly on his investigation, which concluded last month with the determination that he deserved disciplinary action. Frazier’s office issued a statement last week saying it was "cooperating fully" with investigators. Bowen has said the charges against him are without merit. Roderick did not respond to a request for comment. "It’s very troubling," said Beth Daley of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a non-profit, non-partisan group that independently investigates waste, fraud and abuse in government. "If they’re breaking all the rules they’re supposed to be enforcing, then obviously we’ve got a problem." Daley noted that three other Bush administration IGs have been the subjects of controversy: – Janet Rehnquist, former Health and Human Services Department (HHS) IG and the daughter of late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Janet Rehnquist resigned in 2003 in the face of a PCIE investigation into charges of interfering with an investigation and mismanagement; – Karla Corcoran, former U.S. Postal Service IG, also resigned in 2003, after a congressional investigation into her spending practices; and – Joseph Schmitz, former Defense Department IG, who resigned in 2005 amid a congressional investigation into whether he interfered with investigations into Bush administration officials. Rehnquist, Corcoran and Schmitz have denied wrongdoing. Johnnie Frazier’s photo is courtesy of the Department of Commerce. Bill Roderick’s photo is courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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