H. David Kotz, one of the federal government’s most outspoken and visible watchdogs, plans to step down as inspector general at the Securities and Exchange Commission, he announced Tuesday.

(Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

But they should.

Thirty presidentially appointed inspectors general and 33 watchdogs at independent and smaller agencies employ more than 13,600 auditors and investigators. They identified $43.3 billion in potential taxpayer savings in fiscal 2009, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office. Given their total 2009 budget authority of $2.3 billion, taxpayers would have earned an $18 return on each dollar invested in federal watchdogs if their potential savings were fully enacted, the report said.

With Kotz’s departure, at least nine IG positions sit vacant. A recent Washington Post editorial noted that the White House has made some progress in filling the vacancies in recent months: Obama nominated federal prosecutor Michael E. Horowitz in July to fill the watchdog role at the Justice Department and tapped former Office of Director of National Intelligence Inspector General Roslyn A. Mazer to fill a similar position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Last year Carolyn Lerner also took over at the Office of Special Counsel, a tiny agency responsible for federal whistleblower concerns, while Gene Dodaro assumed another critical oversight position as head of the Government Accountability Office. Earlier in his presidency, Obama filled watchdog vacancies at NASA, the Education Department, the Small Business Administration and the Defense Department, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

But vacancies still exist at the State Department — whose operations in Iraq especially require close oversight — and a mix of domestic and financial agencies.

Congress gets back to work this week with plans to focus on job creation and paying down the federal deficit. Filling vacant inspector general jobs would be a good place to start.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Changes planned for beleaguered federal retirement program

Mitt Romney to release tax returns

Jeffrey Zients tapped to lead Office of Management and Budget

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.