Inspector General to Audit NASA Agreement

From NBC 
February 26, 2013 

NASA’S Inspector General announced it is initiating an audit to evaluate NASA’s management of its Space Act Agreements with private companies, including, apparently its agreement with a company associated with Google’s principals to house private jets at NASA Ames’ Moffett Field.

United State Senator Charles Grassley called for an investigation into the agreement after NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit raised questions about the deal and the use of the private planes in May.

Grassley’s office says it believes that NASA’s inspector general will review the deal between NASA and H2-11, a company owned by the principals at Google.

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US Wasted Billions in Iraq with Few Results

From AFP 
March 7. 2013 

WASHINGTON — After invading Iraq ten years ago, the United States spent $60 billion on a vast reconstruction effort that left behind few successes and a litany of failures, an auditor’s report said Wednesday.

Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

The ambitious plan to transform the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein has been marked by half-finished projects and crushed expectations, according to the final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.

The aid effort was plagued by in-fighting among US agencies and an improvised “adhocracy” approach, with no one clearly in charge of a massive investment that was supposed to put Iraq on a stable footing, said the report to Congress.

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The Spy Hunt for Whistle-Blowers

From New York Times – Editorial

The intensity and sweep of the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to spy on the communications of whistle-blowing employees suspected of leaking trade secrets to outsiders were astonishing. What started as an effort to monitor the e-mails of a single individual quickly grew to encompass five employees and their communications with other F.D.A. workers, journalists, Congressional staff members and two government offices that investigate allegations raised by whistle-blowers on what is supposed to be a confidential basis.

As Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane reported in The Times last week, the F.D.A. used so-called spy software that captured screen images from the government-issued laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The automated surveillance generated more than 80,000 pages of computer documents and e-mails that were inadvertently posted on a public Web site.

The surveillance began on April 22, 2010, after GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric, requested an investigation of how information that it considered a trade secret had ended up in The New York Times on March 29, 2010. That article focused primarily on allegations about unwarranted radiation risks posed by a CT machine made by General Electric to screen patients for colon cancer; it quoted two of the whistle-blowers who would later come under surveillance and be let go.

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IG Encourages USPS to Consider Offering Non-Postal Services

From Federal News Radio

U.S. Postal Service locations around the country could benefit from providing nonpostal services, a new reportfrom the USPS Inspector General released Monday found.

The USPS is currently searching for viable ways to survive financially in a changing environment, as fewer people are sending mail and revenue is decreasing. The report noted that most of USPS’s efforts thus far have focused on cutting costs by means of reducing the workforce or ending Saturday delivery. The service also closed several plantsaround the country earlier this year.

The IG report suggested the agency also look for ways to increase revenue and to create a positive view of the Postal Service brand by offering other types of services such as Internet access, notary services or passport services. Other experts recently have encouraged USPS to begin offering some banking services again. Other postal services around the world use similar opportunities to increase their revenue.

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Under Carolyn Lerner, Special Counsel Office is Doing Its Job Now, Observers Say

From the Washington Post

A year ago this month, Carolyn Lerner took over a special counsel’s office that held a special place among federal agencies for failing to do its job.

Special Counsel, Carolyn Lerner

Before President Obama appointed her as special counsel, the office was best known for its previous boss who faced incarceration for contempt of Congress. Morale had been in the pits, right next to the agency’s reputation for effectiveness, especially in protecting the rights of federal whistleblowers.

But with Lerner heading the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), whistleblower advocates now give it strong praise.

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Panel Chides Obama for Inspector-General Vacancies

From Washington Post

House Republicans on Thursday criticized the Obama administration’s delay in nominating inspectors general for several key agencies.

Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee

There are 10 inspector-general vacancies, including five at Cabinet-level agencies. Four of the positions have been vacant for more than three years and some, such as the State Department’s, have been led by a deputy inspector general for years.

“This administration’s failure to fill inspector-general vacancies has weakened the effectiveness of the inspector-general community, thus exposing American taxpayer dollars to waste, fraud and abuse,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.

Acting inspectors general have filled the vacant slots.

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GSA Inspector General is Investigating Possible Bribes, Kickbacks

From the Washington Post

The inspector general for the General Services Administration said Monday that he is investigating possible bribery and kickbacks in the agency, as lawmakers accused the former GSA administrator of allowing a Las Vegas spending scandal to erode taxpayers’ trust in government.

Inspector General Brian Miller told a congressional committee scrutinizing an $823,000 Las Vegas conference that his office has asked the Justice Department to investigate “all sorts of improprieties” surrounding the 2010 event, “including bribes, including possible kickbacks.” He did not provide details.

GSA Inspector General, Brian Miller

Miller’s revelations of possible further misconduct by organizers of the four-day event, coming on the heels of a highly critical report, enraged Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The lawmakers put GSA officials on the defensive during a tense four-hour hearing, with some Republicans loudly rebuking former administrator Martha N. Johnson and her colleagues.

Read the article here:  Washington Post

Tracking Vacancies in Federal Inspector General Offices

From  Corporate Counsel

The vast U.S. federal government contains no shortage of regulators and overseers who are involved in many aspects of American business and life. But while these people watch out for potential misconduct in areas such as agriculture, commerce, or elections, a new report from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) asks the question: Where are the watchdogs who are supposed to be watching the watchdogs?

On Wednesday, POGO released “Where Are All the Watchdogs?”, an investigative project tracking vacancies in the offices of statutory inspectors general at federal agencies. At launch, the report found 12 vacant IG seats (out of a total of 73), ranging from spots that have been open for less than two weeks to one—at the U.S. Department of State—that has been unoccupiedsince January of 2008.

The nonpartisan POGO clearly does not see the IG vacancy rate as good news. “As the government looks for savings and as public confidence in government is historically low, it is inexcusable that we have so many inspector general vacancies,” said POGO investigator Jake Wiens. 

Read the article here, Corporate Counsel

Maloney Named Interim SEC Inspector General

From Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—The Securities and Exchange Commission named Noelle Maloney as the agency’s interim chief internal watchdog following the departure of  David Kotz.

Ms. Maloney will head the SEC’s Office of Inspector General while the commission searches for a permanent director. Mr. Kotz left the agency Friday after four years to join the Washington office of investigative-services firm Gryphon Strategies as a managing director.

His departure announcement provoked widely different reactions, reflecting the polarizing nature of Mr. Kotz’s relentless approach to rooting out perceived misconduct at the agency, including a botched office-leasing program and that the SEC didn’t uncover  Bernard Madoff‘s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme on its own. Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt hailed Mr. Kotz’s departure as marking the end of a “reign of terror,” while a supporter countered that the SEC now needed another equally “good inspector general” to hold it to account.

Read the article here, Wall Street Journal

Watchdog: Taxpayers Still Owed $132.9B from Bailout

From  Philly.com

WASHINGTON – A government watchdog says that U.S. taxpayers are still owed $132.9 billion that companies haven’t repaid from the financial bailout, and that some of it will never be recovered.

The bailout begun at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 will continue for years, according to a report issued Thursday by Christy Romero, acting special inspector general for the $700 billion bailout. Some bailout programs, such as the effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by reducing mortgage payments, will last up to 2017, costing the government an additional $51 billion or so.

The gyrating stock market has slowed the Treasury Department’s efforts to sell off its stakes in 458 bailed-out companies, the report said. Those companies include insurer American International Group Inc., General Motors Co., and Ally Financial Inc.

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