June 25,2009

Grassley asks Amtrak to Respond to Report Describing Interference with IG Work

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley has asked Amtrak about the circumstances of the Inspector General’s unexpected retirement seven days ago and invited Amtrak to provide information about the interference by Amtrak in the work of the Inspector General described in a report prepared at the request of the retired watchdog.

Grassley said the report indicates that Amtrak’s policies and procedures have systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act.

“As I continue my investigation into whether the independence of the Inspector General was undermined by Amtrak officials, I want to make sure I have any and all information Amtrak wants to provide,” Grassley said. “The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees,” Grassley asked the Office of the Inspector General last week for a copy of the report, which was prepared by the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Grassley said his office had been in communication with former Inspector General Fred Weiderhold about the issues before Weiderhold’s retirement on June 18, 2009.

Also this month, Grassley has been investigating the President’s decision to fire the AmeriCorps Inspector General, after the Inspector General issued two reports of mismanagement and abusive spending by AmeriCorps grantees. Grassley also has asked the International Trade Commission to account for its termination of its Inspector General who had been repeatedly hired for six-month increments and been given outstanding performance reviews. In both cases, Grassley said the administration failed to comply with a law enacted last year requiring Congress to be notified 30 days in advance of the dismissal of an Inspector General and given the reasons for the firing. Then-Senator Barack Obama co-sponsored the legislation along with Grassley.

“Inspectors general are watchdogs over the federal bureaucracy, and the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 is supposed to better safeguard their independence so they can do their jobs for taxpayers and program stakeholders,” Grassley said. “The President has said he wants more accountable government, and keeping good watchdogs on the job is fundamental to that goal. Inspectors general need to be strengthened, not undermined.”

Last week, Grassley asked the Treasury Secretary to put an end to documented resistance from the Treasury Department to requests for information from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Senator Grassley was an advocate for creating a Special IG for TARP to try to hold the program accountable and co-sponsored legislation to strengthen the ability of the Special IG to conduct oversight after the TARP program changed its original mission. Earlier this year, Senator Grassley also battled the White House after it tried to subject requests of the Special IG to the red tape of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Grassley subsequently introduced legislation to exempt the Special IG from the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Grassley has long worked to empower inspectors general to conduct effective oversight of the federal bureaucracy and he has held inspectors general themselves accountable for meeting the requirements of the jobs.

The text of Grassley’s letter to Amtrak is below, along with his letter of last week to the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General, which sought a copy of the report. The attachments to today’s letter, including the “Report on Matters Impairing the Effectiveness and Independence of the Office of Inspector General,” are posted with this news release in the Printer-Friendly version.