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Friday, October 22nd, 2021

Congress members release GAO report on DHS Inspector General

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U.S. Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Homeland Security Committee Chairman; Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman; John Katko (R-NY), Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member, and James Comer (R-KY), Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member, announced the release of a report from the General Accountability Office (GAO) shows systemic management problems at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG).

The report, released Thursday, found that the DHS OIG has not addressed long-standing management and operational issues by following professional standards and key practices. Previously, the GAO had offered 21 recommendations for the DHS OIG to fix its long-standing problems, but the new report found none of the recommendations had been addressed.

“It is critical that DHS, a large agency with a national security mission, has an Office of Inspector General that is fully functional and conducting effective oversight,” the Congress Members said in announcing the report’s release. “We expect the DHS OIG to fulfill its mission with independence, integrity, transparency, and accountability, but this report makes clear the office must make significant changes to do so. GAO has presented clear evidence that the failure to address long-standing weaknesses has impacted the quality and timeliness of the OIG’s work and has resulted in arbitrary decision-making leading to diminished morale and complaints of leadership favoritism. While Inspector General Cuffari responded by saying that work on addressing GAO’s recommendations has begun, we need to see a complete implementation plan and real action to accomplish it in order to assess whether the office is on the right track.”

The GAO report indicated that the Inspector General’s office isn’t clear about why it investigates some things but not others. Additionally, the report said the DHS OIG operates without a strategic plan that limits its ability “to implement organizational performance management activities.” The office also lacks consistent quality assurance standards, which have forced some reports to be retracted.

Other concerns included the length of time the DHS OIG takes to complete reports and its inability to communicate with leaders at DHS.

However, the GAO did find that the Inspector General has begun to address some of the GAO’s concerns. Give the breadth of the weaknesses, though, the GAO felt that fixing all the problems with the DHS OIG would take significant leadership and follow-through over time.