Thune & Johnson to President: Commerce Department Needs a Permanent IG

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), in a letter sent yesterday, called on President Barack Obama to, “nominate, without delay, a qualified, experienced, and dedicated individual of high character and integrity to serve as the Commerce Department’s permanent Inspector General.” The Commerce Department’s previous inspector general resigned on June 4, 2015.
“We are concerned that a long vacancy at this position will hinder the mission of the Office of Inspector General, which is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s programs and operations as well as to detect and deter waste, fraud, and abuse,” explained Thune and Johnson in their letter to the president. “[W]hile we appreciate the willingness of the acting Inspector General to manage the office on an interim basis, it has come to our attention that he recently recused himself from matters concerning the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Oversight of FirstNet is one of the most important priorities for the OIG … We are therefore concerned that this recusal will result in insufficient focus on ensuring that the FirstNet organization has strengthened its project and contract management processes and guaranteeing good stewardship of taxpayer funds.”

A Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing entitled, “Watchdogs Needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Left Unfilled for Years,” highlighted the fact that a sustained absence of a permanent, Senate-confirmed inspector general at an agency creates the potential for conflicts of interest, diminishes independent oversight, and causes instability within the ranks of the inspector general’s office. Earlier this year, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing that highlighted problems requiring continued OIG oversight of FirstNet, the multi-billion dollar effort to build a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network.

Thune and Johnson pledged to conduct a “prompt and thorough vetting of any nominee to be the permanent Inspector General for the Department of Commerce.”

Click here for Thune and Johnson’s letter to President Obama.