– By Domani Spero
On September 30, Mr. Linick’s first day in office, we posted this: Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 Days.
One day later, he lost 65% of his entire staff. State Dept Declares Inspector General Office “Non-Essential”, Furloughs All Staffers Except a Handful (Corrected).
In one of its six offices (Inspection, Audit, Investigation, General Counsel, Public Affairs and EX) four out of approximately 50 employees were declared “excepted.” The rest were given letters notifying them that they had been furloughed. So on Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, the State/OIG employees worked no more than four hours to “shutdown” then went home for an undetermined period of time. They’re back at work today but we fear that the 16-day furlough will have a demoralizing impact.
Besides the IG office, the International Water Boundary Commission was also furloughed. The total number of employees furloughed by State, a number hard to come by, was reportedly in the low hundreds.
The Cable’s John Hudson who puts the number at about 340 employees, reports that this “disproportionate furlough allotment has led critics to accuse the department of undervaluing the watchdog office, though the department strongly disputes that.”
“On day one, they sent home the IG’s office without knowing how long the shutdown would last,” a Congressional staffer familiar with State’s shutdown planning told The Cable. “I think the Department’s action speaks for itself about its commitment to transparency, accountability, and oversight.”
But State’s IG spokesman Douglas Welty denied the allegation. “OIG does not feel ‘targeted’ or ‘undervalued’ at all,” he said. “While there was certainly a significant impact on OIG operations with about 65% of our staff furloughed due to the government shutdown, work on several priority issues and projects continued.”
That may be, but as The Cable notes, “the optics of OIG taking a disproportionate share of the furloughs isn’t great for an office with a history of being marginalized.”
We were told that while it was “a challenge” to have about 65% of OIG staff furloughed one day after Mr. Linick started as the Inspector General, some critical work did continue. For instance, the Office of Audits excepted staff did continue work on financial statement audits, as well as those working on projects and investigations in the Middle East Region Office (MERO). The MERO Directorate is responsible for performing engagements within the Middle East and South and Central Asia, in addition to the general operation of overseas offices in Kabul Afghanistan; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Baghdad, Iraq. However, several overseas and domestic inspections have been delayed. The exceptions were two overseas inspections that did continue despite the shutdown because they were already in the field.
If you want the upside here, it is probably that while Mr. Linick’s transition has not been smooth, the last two weeks did give him time to meet with his senior staff (at least those not furloughed) and get a thorough briefings on OIG’s structure, operations and priority issues. The downside, of course, is — the new kid in the block was in no position to make the case for continued operation when he just got there. And what a reception! On a related note, Emilia Disanto has been appointed Acting Deputy Inspector General as of October 1. Karen Ouzts is the new Assistant Inspector General for Administration, with appointment date of September 4, 2013. And Norman P. Brown, the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits was appointed to his position on September 13, 2013.
Now — we understand that the reason why the OIG was furloughed was due to its annual fiscal year funding, as opposed to multi-year or no-year funding for the rest of the State Department. Of all the many offices at State, OIG is one of the very few offices with one-year funding. But since the OIG is tasked with investigating fraud, waste and mismanagement of an agency with multi-year/no-year funds, wouldn’t it make sense that its funding corresponds/mirrors with the designated Federal entity’s funding to which the Inspector General reports? So if State has multi-year funding, shouldn’t State/OIG ought to have multi-year funding, too?
Something to watch out for when State/OIG, a statutorily created independent entity, makes its 2015 Congressional Budget Justification. For now we just want to say —
Welcome back folks, we’ve missed you!