State/OIG Hotline and Resources For Whistleblowers in the Federal Service

 

 

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Burn Bag: Hello! Hello! Anybody Home?

 

Via Burn Bag:

“I’ve been trying for several days to call the OIG hotline. Even though the recording says it is staffed during business hours, I tried several days and always got the recording.  I did find a phone book online called called someone in the OIG office who returned my call but I think there is either a backlog or my information isn’t important.  At least I tried to report potential fraud and mismanagement.”

We asked State/OIG about the Hotline, and we received the following response:

“We take our hotline obligations very seriously, and we review all information that we receive. OIG’s hotline unit is staffed with analysts who receive and review allegations regarding fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct affecting Department of State and U.S. Agency for Global Media programs and operations. If our hotline staff cannot answer a call during regular business hours, callers are directed to the hotline voicemail, where they should leave a message. Our hotline analysts regularly check those messages. In addition, complainants can use the hotline form on the OIG website at www.stateoig.gov/hotline-form. Once the form is submitted, a message appears on the screen explaining that the complaint was received. Hotline complaints may also be mailed to our office at: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General, P.O. Box 9778, Arlington, VA 22219. As our website explains at www.stateoig.gov/hotline, once we receive a complaint—regardless of the format—we may take a number of different actions, including contacting the complainant for additional information.”

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Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?

Posted: 4:13 pm PT
Updated: 10:50 am PT
Updated 11/15, 12:36 am PT
Updated: 11/16 4:51 am ET
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In August 2014, we updated our Burn Bag guidance:

Just a quick note on the Burn Bag — we’re not always able to publish the entries you send us, or as quickly as you may want.  The intent remains the same, it’s cheaper than therapy.  We’re still talking about the “I’m feeling blue, I want to scream” things that you can’t put on your blog, things that’s making you tear out your hair or stuff you can’t tell your friends here or at post because — admit it, you live in a very large fishbowl.  As a reminder, kindly check the guidelines for sending your Burn Bag entries here.

One of our regular readers, a former ambassador suggested that some of these Burn Bag entries ought to be submitted not to this blog but to the OIG Hotline. That, of course, is not/not up for us to decide but for the writers/senders of these Burn Bag entries.

In any case, we promised to remind you about the Hotline.

If you need to report waste, fraud or mismanagement, please contact the State Department Office of Inspector General Hotline.   If you need to, you may contact the Hotline via email: oighotline@state.gov or by calling 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926 or using its online form. Note that it is no longer possible to submit a report using the hotline email. We were told that  the current system of reporting information to the Hotline via the OIG’s online submission form “actually provides more anonymity.” Note that if you are using OIG’s online form, the USG system will probably capture/log your IP address. If you want to preserve your anonymity, you need to use a VPN service or an IP anonymizer.

According to the State/OIG website, examples of allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include misuse, embezzlement or theft of government property or funds; contract or procurement fraud; contractor misconduct; passport and visa malfeasance; fraud, waste and mismanagement of Department and BBG operations; employee misconduct, such as misuse of official position; bribes or unauthorized acceptance of gifts; conflicts of interest and other ethical violations; and defense trade control violations.  Please check out the rest on the OIG Hotline page here.

Today, we are adding an importation notation that folks who submit Burn Bag entries should be aware of.  If you are submitting an entry reporting malfeasance and criminal wrong doing, we strongly urge you to report to a law enforcement office or use the OIG Hotline here. This is not because we are unsympathetic, but because we want you to get the right help. Your blogger is not a lawyer nor a member of law enforcement, and feels inadequate to offer appropriate assistance.

If you are submitting an entry that report or alleged criminal wrong doing that we determine can have repercussions to the safety and well being of other individuals in the community — for example, a report of a sexual predator at post, bureau, or school — we reserve the right to provide that information to State/OIG. That office can then make a decision whether to pursue any investigation.

So never mind — we were told by State/OIG that its “Hotline is not the proper venue to report a rape.” And that the reporting “should be done immediately to the RSO at post or the local law enforcement authority. They are in the best position to offer help with such a crime.” 

What happens if the accused is an RSO?! As we’ve previously blogged here, there is no official guidance in the FAM on reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service (see The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief). We’ve been trying to locate the unclassified cables that were released by DS/OSI in 2015 and earlier this year on sexual assault reporting. We will have a separate post if we’re successful. 

I guess, we will not be forwarding Burn Bag entries to OIG even if the alleged conduct has potential repercussions for other people in the community, we will just publish them in this blog. 

For congressional assistance, California Representative Jackie Spieir has an anonymous hotline and has worked on military rape and sexual assault. Her office can be reached at 202-226-5294  or through https://speier.house.gov/contact/website-problem.

As always, comments are welcome here.

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Don’t Give Up On Us Baby: State Dept OIG Writes Back on Leadership and Management

— Domani Spero
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In the years that we’ve blogged about the State Department and the Foreign Service, we’ve covered the Office of Inspector General (OIG) quite a bit.  The complaints that reports to the OIG were ignored or forwarded to other parts of the bureaucracy are not new.  We have readers bending our ears about that specific issue for years.

Recently, we had a Burn Bag submission saying “The OIG can’t and won’t save us. They stress, the Bureaus, not the OIG, should be the “bad leadership police.”

That is troubling, yes?  To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, if people lose hope, that’s your real disaster. If employees start thinking and feeling that their institution do not care about them, how soon before the employees stop caring about their institution?

So we sent the following questions to the Office of Inspector General:

Is it true that complaints or allegations of bad leadership or mismanagement are forwarded by the OIG to the bureaus to handle?

Do you think that the bureaus are equipped to police their own ranks?

Who do you go to if you have complaints about mismanagement at the bureau level?

If top officials are not accountable for their bad leadership or mismanagement and as these officials are reassigned from one post to the next, doesn’t this build a negative impact on morale and ultimately on the institution?

I am trying to understand why the OIG, which is often, the last resort in many of these cases, does not think effective management and leadership is a priority as he embarks on his new tenure at State?

Yesterday, we received the following response:

 

Oops, excuse me, that’s Hutch’s 1977 smash-hit single. If you don’t remember him, that’s because I’m officially an oldster protected by ADEA.  And he’s that fellow from the original Starsky and Hutch.

 

Here’s the official OIG response, republished below in full:

Leadership and management are challenges for the Department and an oversight priority for the Office of Inspector General (OIG). IG Linick has discussed leadership and management issues directly with the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. Each of the divisions within OIG play a role, often collaborating to hold the Department accountable for ineffective leadership and mismanagement.

OIG’s Office of Investigations (INV) learns of ineffective leadership or management through Hotline reports, from our Office of Inspections (ISP), and in the course of its own investigations. INV addresses complaints about Department leadership and management in a number of different ways. OIG investigators conduct initial reviews of mismanagement involving fraud, waste, abuse, administrative misconduct, or retaliation against whistleblowers, for example, and refer matters to the Department of Justice when there is evidence of possible criminal or civil violations.

There are, however, circumstances that prompt OIG to refer leadership and management concerns to the Department. If, for instance, a complainant’s allegations relate to a personnel matter, such as allegations that an official used abusive language with subordinates, OIG may notify appropriate Department officials about the alleged perpetrator so that they may take action. Thus, if such a complaint were about a COM or DCM, OIG would notify the relevant Assistant Secretary and Director General. Matters referred to the Department are monitored for appropriate follow-up. In other circumstances, when warranted, OIG will send investigators to look into the allegations directly.

OIG’s Office of Investigations notifies OIG inspectors of allegations or complaints about leadership and management at posts and bureaus to help ISP prioritize its work and to identify areas that should be assessed during formal inspections. OIG monitors compliance with its recommendations and brings them to the attention of Congress through formal and informal means. ISP evaluates the effectiveness of leadership and management in the course of its inspections, and it may move up scheduling of a post’s inspection when these types of concerns surface in survey results or by other means.

Over the years, ISP has made recommendations to the Department aimed at improving Department-wide leadership and management issues, such as recommendations that the Department develop directives on leadership or management principles, conduct 360-degree surveys on its leaders, enhance First And Second Tour (FAST) mentoring, and be more innovative in providing sustained leadership and management training to Foreign Service Officers throughout their careers. The Department has already adopted some of OIG’s major recommendations, such as updating the Foreign Affairs Manual to address leadership. It has also begun to conduct its first 360-degree survey of COMs.

 

We  appreciate State/OIG’s effort  to address our questions. We hope this is helpful to our readers. We will have a follow-up post later on.

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A Note About the Burn Bag

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Just a quick note on the Burn Bag — we’re not always able to publish the entries you send us, or as quickly as you may want.  The intent remains the same, it’s cheaper than therapy.  We’re still talking about the “I’m feeling blue, I want to scream” things that you can’t put on your blog, things that’s making you tear out your hair or stuff you can’t tell your friends here or at post because — admit it, you live in a very large fishbowl.  As a reminder, kindly check the guidelines for sending your Burn Bag entries here.

One of our regular readers, a former ambassador suggested that some of these Burn Bag entries ought to be submitted not to this blog but to the OIG Hotline. That, of course, is not/not up for us to decide but for the writers/senders of these Burn Bag entries.

In any case, we promised to remind you about the Hotline.

If you need to report waste, fraud or mismanagement, please contact the State Department Office of Inspector General Hotline.   If you need to, you may contact the Hotline via email: oighotline@state.gov or call 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926.

According to the State/OIG website, examples of allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include misuse, embezzlement or theft of government property or funds; contract or procurement fraud; contractor misconduct; passport and visa malfeasance; fraud, waste and mismanagement of Department and BBG operations; employee misconduct, such as misuse of official position; bribes or unauthorized acceptance of gifts; conflicts of interest and other ethical violations; and defense trade control violations.

Please check out the rest on the OIG Hotline page here.

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