Grassley seeks independence for watchdog over International Trade Commission
WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the International TradeCommission to account for its reported interference in the work of the Inspector Generalfor the Commission, as well as the limited-term status of the Inspector General.
“Inspectors general are watchdogs over the federal bureaucracy, and the ability toact independently is fundamental to their success in holding government agenciesaccountable to the public,” Grassley said.
Grassley has long worked to empower inspectors general to conduct oversight andto make sure inspectors general fulfill the responsibilities of the position.The text of Grassley’s letter to ITC Chairman Shara L. Aranoff is below. Copies of the semi-annual report of the ITC Inspector General, upon which his inquiry is based,are posted with this news release at http://finance.senate.gov and http://grassley.senate.gov.
June 16, 2009
The Honorable Shara L. Aranoff
United States International Trade Commission
500 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20436
Dear Chairman Aranoff:
My staff has been conducting thorough reviews of the semi-annual reportsproduced by the Inspector General community. As Ranking Member of the SenateFinance Committee I am responsible for conducting oversight of the International TradeCommission (ITC), and therefore, am particularly interested in the ITC InspectorGeneral’s semi-annual reports. The following statement from the April 2009 SemiannualReport to Congress (Report) raises a number of serious concerns and questions: “OnMarch 5, 2009, in the course of conducting an investigation regarding contractoractivities, certain procurement files were removed forcibly from the possession of theInspector General by a Commission employee.”
I was disappointed to learn that, according to the Report, despite being notified ofthis situation the ITC failed to ensure that the files were immediately returned intact andunaltered. The ability of Inspectors General to secure agency records subject to audit orinvestigation is essential to ensure the integrity and reliability of their work on behalf ofCongress and the American People. The Inspectors General were created by Congress asa means to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuringthat federal agencies are held accountable for their actions. It is difficult to understandwhy the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC Inspector General hadthe information necessary to do the job.
The Report also noted that the ITC Inspector General is serving a limited sixmonthterm. I am unaware of any other agency Inspector General that serves under such aconstraint and am curious to learn what statutory authority gives the ITC the ability tomake a limited term appointment. Accordingly, please provide a briefing to me by nolater than July 17, 2009, which addresses the following:
1) What disciplinary action, if any, has been or will be taken against any employeesinvolved in forcibly removing documents from the Inspector General’s possession?
2) Why did you not immediately act to secure the records upon notification by theInspector General?
3) What steps are you taking to ensure that the Inspector General is able to secure andmaintain the integrity of agency records in the future?
4) For how long and by what authority has the ITC purported to make limited-termappointments to fill Inspector General vacancies?
In addition, prior to meeting, but no later than June 30, 2009 I would appreciatereceiving the following:
1) all materials relating to documents removed from the Inspector General’s possessionon or about March 5, 2009, including all emails, memoranda, notes, records, or otherdocuments, whether in draft or final form;
2) all materials relating to the six month term appointment of the Inspector General;
3) all materials relating to the ITC’s interpretation of the term ”access” as set forth in theInspector General Act of 1978, as amended;
4) a comparison of the annual budget amounts for the Office of the Inspector General andto the ITC for the period of October 1, 2004 through the present; and
5) a timeline describing, from October 1, 2005 to the present, precisely when the ITC hada permanent IG, an acting IG, a term-limited IG, or no IG.
In cooperating with the Committee’s review, no documents, records, data, orother information related to these matters, either directly or indirectly, shall be destroyed,modified, removed, or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee. Thank you foryour prompt attention to these important matters.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator
Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance
cc: Commissioners of the United States International Trade Commission
Acting Inspector General
United States International Trade Commission
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