Attorney General Loretta Lynch lauded inspectors generalinvestigating waste, fraud and inefficiency in government at anaward ceremony Thursday, even whileÂ her departmentcontinuesÂ to deny access to important records.
â€œYour hard work has improved theeffectiveness of our government,”Â Lynch told theCouncil of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency(CIGIE) at itsÂ 18thÂ annual award ceremony.“By investigating wrongdoing â€¦ you arestrengthening the very institutions that govern oursociety.â€
She did not addressÂ the Department ofJusticeâ€™s Office of Legal Counsel opinion issuedin July that declared thatÂ laws with specific privacyclauses â€“ such as with wiretappingâ€“ are exempt from the IGsâ€™investigations and audits, even though the Inspector General Act of1978 requires that IGs have unfettered access to all governmentdocuments required in their work.
â€œI emphasizeâ€˜allâ€™ because unrestricted access to agency records ensuresthat our essential functions cannot be thwarted,â€ CIGIEChairman and Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz wrote on theissue Sunday in The Washington Post.
â€œWithout independent access to agencyrecords, our ability as IGs to conduct the kind of sensitivereviews that have resulted in widespread improvements in theeffectiveness of government programs will be significantlycompromised,â€ Horowitz wrote.
Lynch previously voiced support for legislation that wouldstrengthen and clarifywatchdogsâ€™ privileges, according to USAToday.
“The department has long held the position that theinspector general should have access to all the information itneeds to perform its essential oversight function,” JusticeDepartment spokeswoman Emily Pierce said. “Consistent withthis view, department leadership has implemented procedures toensure that the inspector general receives sensitive lawenforcement information in a timely manner.â€
â€œThe 72 inspector general offices have one ofthe most difficult â€¦ challenges in thegovernment,â€ Lynch said. â€œI saw howchallenging your job can be.â€
She said IG auditors and investigators must be experts on a widerange of subjects. Lynch also thanked Horowitz â€“who she has known for 20 years â€“ for his work asDOJ’s IG and as chairman of CIGIE.
The IGs accounted for $46.5 billion in potential savings, includingâ€œ$13.8 billion in potential savings from auditrecommendations; $32.7 billion in potential savings frominvestigative recoveries and receivables; over 5,500 indictmentsand criminal informations; over 5,800 successful prosecutions; over5,100 suspensions and debarments; and over 547,000 hotlinecomplaints processed,â€ according to a CIGIEstatement.
Awards highlighted during Thursday’s ceremony included aDepartment of Agriculture IG investigation that led to theconviction of two brothers defrauding the crop insurance programfor over $4.3 million. Another notable case was a Department ofVeterans Affairs IG investigation that led to 12peopleâ€™s convictions for stealingpatientsâ€™ records and using them to filefraudulent tax returns.
The awards were presented by Horowitz and National ScienceFoundation IG and CIGIE Vice Chairman Allison Lerner.