What Should be the Role of Agency Inspectors General?

By on September 7, 2016 in Leadership with 18 Comments

A new report from the Partnership for Public Service looks at the traditional role of inspectors general (IGs) within federal agencies and seeks to determine what their optimum role should be within agency leadership to maximize government operating efficiency.

Agency inspectors general play a crucial role in the effective operation of federal agencies. The report notes that the data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management that left the personal information of millions of current and former federal employees likely came as a tremendous shock to those federal workers, however, it was no shock to OPM’s inspector general who had issued three reports on the agency’s lack of information technology security policies and procedures, calling that a “material weakness,” and recommending a centralized security management structure to enforce IT security policies.

Opportunities for stakeholders

One prominent theme in the report is the transition that will take place in government as a result of the upcoming elections is a perfect opportunity for new government leaders to work with inspectors general.

IGs can support government leaders in these ways:

  • Provide constructive oversight for the agency
  • Produce practical, actionable recommendations and highlight best practices
  • Promote and support strategic innovation

Likewise, agency leaders and the White House need to:

  • Understand the mission and role of the inspector general
  • Rely on the IG for insights into major agency risks, opportunities and threats
  • Provide IGs with information they need to do a fair and honest review
  • Understand each IG’s “line in the sand”
  • Fill vacant IG positions with top talent as quickly as possible

The report also points out that Congress has a role in the process as well. In order for IGs to truly be effective, Congress must give IGs the room to operate effectively by reducing the burden of legislative mandates that can divert the IGs’ resources from addressing critical issues for their agencies as well as support the president in filling vacancies in agency leadership positions quickly.

Walking the Line

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.