The State Department position has been vacant since Jan. 16, 2008. President Obama has yet to nominate someone for the position. Interior has been vacant for more than 1,150 days, and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction more than 440 days, according to a vacancy tracker maintained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
Acting inspectors general have been temporarily filling the positions.
“I can’t imagine a president would tolerate not having a secretary of state, a secretary of defense, a secretary of homeland security, or a secretary of interior,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the oversight committee. “Likewise, tolerating inspector general vacancies at these departments and other agencies hampers oversight and sends the wrong message about what should be an unequivocal commitment to accountable government.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the administration is working to fill the jobs.
“The administration is committed to strong inspectors general, and we are working diligently to identify highly qualified candidates to fill these important posts,” Schultz said. “The administration supports the work and commitment of all of the IG offices, including those currently being led by acting IGs, as they strive to ensure that taxpayers are getting the good government they deserve.”
Serving as an acting inspector general can come with its own problems, said Jake Wiens, of POGO, who will testify before Issa’s committee Thursday.
Powers invested in the office might be the same, he said, but there are often problems of perception, especially when the acting official is vying for the permanent job.
“If you become a thorn, the administration is less likely to pick you as permanent IG. There’s a potential for conflict there,” he said.
H. David Kotz, who left as inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission in January, agreed.
“Acting IGs have performed well. But it’s difficult to utilize the full effect of an office in an acting function,” Kotz said, adding that some agencies might be prone to riding out an acting inspector general to prevent embarrassing investigations.
Harry W. Geisel has been deputy inspector general of the State Department since 2008. Because the president has yet to nominate an inspector general, Geisel has been the senior leader for four years. During his tenure, audits and inspections have risen 56 percent between 2008 and 2011, the number of open investigations went from 36 in fiscal year 2007 to 99 in fiscal year 2011, according to OIG spokesman Douglas P. Welty.
An assistant inspector general, who declined to be named for this article, gave Geisel’s leadership effusive praise and called him the best inspector general she has worked for.