Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a sternly-worded letter on Monday to the government’s 73 inspectors general asking that they inform congress of serious violations under investigation.
In the letter, Issa, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, expressed his displeasure that the inspector general of the General Services Administration failed to inform Congress of an investigation into a 2010 employee conference in Las Vegas that cost more than $823,000. While the inspector general had informed GSA’s senior leadership in May 2011, and the White House was informed the same month, Congress did not receive word of the investigation until The Washington Post broke the story on April 2, the day the GSA inspector general, Brian Miller, issued his report.
“Section 5(d) of the Inspector General Act requires the inspectors general to report particularly flagrant problems to Congress through the agency head within seven days via what has become known as a ‘seven-day letter,’” Issa wrote.
The seven-day letter is a vehicle for inspectors general to independently inform agency administrators and members of Congress. But it is used sparingly.
Between 2008 and 2010, one inspector general issued a seven-day letter, according to a September 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office. Between January 1990 and April 1998, no seven-day letters were issued.
“Generally, issues have been resolved more informally before getting to the point of using a 7-day letter,” according to the GAO report.
“IGs viewed the use of the 7-day letter as a last resort to attempt to force appropriate action by the agency,” the report added.
But Issa wants that to change. He has asked the inspectors general to inform him whether they have issued any seven-day letters since Jan. 1, 2009 and to also describe any “flagrant problems” within their respective agencies that have not yet been reported to Congress.
“Going forward, it is my expectation that you will inform Congress about serious or flagrant problems at your agency— like those at GSA—much earlier,” Issa wrote.