The Office of Special Counsel Needs an Inspector General

7:07 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

The Office of Special Counsel does not have an inspector general. In fact, it was only in 2008 (30 years after its founding) that OSC was given some measure of oversight, with an amendment to the IG Act of 1978 that allows complaints against the Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to be brought before the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

MSPB Watch has attempted to launch citizen oversight of OSC via a number of various FOIA requests. The earliest one, still pending, was made more than a year ago, on Dec. 15, 2011. After a number of rolling completion dates, this request is now scheduled for completion for the end of January 2013. It bears repeating that the Freedom of Information Act requires agencies to provide responsive documents within twenty days. An ambitious schedule, to be sure, but waiting a year or more for documents is problematic.

It’s even more problematic when one considers that OSC is tasked with investigating and prosecuting arbitrary and capricious withholding of FOIA documents. While no implication regarding motive is intended in the present case, OSC cannot credibly work to ensure transparency within other agencies if its own transparency and adherence to the FOIA are found lacking.

The counterargument, of course, is lack of resources, prioritization, caseloads, etc. But the case needs to be made that more resources are needed. Programs and policies need to be audited and evaluated, and recommendations need to be put into reports that are then taken into serious consideration by Congress. The basic fact is that citizen oversight, limited as it is, does not work if access to information is restricted by prolonged delays.

Update: An OSC official told MSPB Watch Dec. 20 that

OSC does not have an IG. At a time of diminished resources and a significant increase in work in all program areas, OSC is not able to create an IG position. That being said, OSC reviews program effectiveness and efficiency on an ongoing basis and issues various reports, including the recently issued Performance and Accountability report, which is posted at http://osc.gov/RR_PerformanceAndAccountabilityReports.htm. In the future, OSC might contract with other IGs to perform certain services.