The Washington Post

Fed watchdogs in their own catfight

Afghan school girls walk near the entrance gate of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan (Ahmad Jamshid/AP)

The federal government’s inspector generals are usually seen as the watchdogs who investigate allegations of mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuse by government agencies and then demand the agencies shape up.

The IG’s also periodically review each other’s work to ensure that everyone’s following appropriate procedures in conducting agency audits.

It seems a most unusual — in fact, downright nasty — catfight erupted last week between two inspector generals when the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reviewed some work of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation IG (PBGC- OIG).

Obviously we’re not going to get involved in the gory details, save to say that the battle is over proper compliance with government accounting standards (GAGAS).

The SIGAR team reviewed two of the PBGC team’s audits and graded them in a report on May 15 with a “pass with deficiencies.”

That sparked what became a bench-clearing brawl, most of which is laid out here.

“SIGAR’s peer review report is replete with errors and misinterpretation to a degree that I personally find shocking,” Corporation IG Rebecca Anne Batts wrote as she forwarded the report Friday to her board of directors.

“Unsupported conclusions,” and “unprofessional,” she added, saying her team tried mightily, to no avail, to try to get the SIGAR folks to come around.

Batts said she had asked the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to assign another inspector general’s office to “conduct a peer review” of her office next year. “I am unwilling to wait for the normal three-year cycle” to show her office’s competence.

That blast followed a letter Friday from SIGAR deputy inspector general Gene Aloise, who rejected a request by the corporation’s deputy IG for “more information” about the review, which he said was “fully in accordance with GAGAS . . . guidelines.”

Besides, Aloise said, “I think we can agree that [both sides] have spent an inordinate amount of time” on this review, “which has now reached the point of diminishing returns.” There’s no public benefit to “drag it out beyond what is reasonable.” In addition, Batts’s request was filed after the 30-day deadline for the reviewed agency to post the IG report on its Web site, he noted, so SIGAR was going to post it on its own site.

And then: “We will also inform” congressional oversight committees, Aloise said, “of the peer review results.”

Stay tuned..

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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