Lawmakers question lack of watchdogs at federal agencies

In the wake of lavish spending by General Services Administration (GSA) officials, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding to know why many federal agencies have no inspector general at all.

There are currently 10 vacancies, including four inspector general slots which have been open for more than 1,000 days.  There has been no permanent inspector general at the State Department since Jan. 2008, for a total of 1,576 days.

Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing aimed at getting some answers about the vacancies.  "The Obama administration has often proclaimed its commitment to the transparency and accountability," said Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., adding, "That's why it's so troubling."

Of the 10 vacant positions, eight can only be filled by a nomination from the president, which must then be confirmed by the Senate.  President Obama did send two nominations to the Senate in 2011, but neither has made it to a floor vote.  Today, the White House said it's "working diligently to identify highly qualified candidates to fill these important posts."

Not diligently enough for Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who said today, "You can excuse him for six months, you can excuse him for a year -- or even maybe 18 months -- but three-and-a-half years ... is just too long."

Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have sent a letter to Obama asking for answers.  It reads in part, "We are requesting information explaining the reasons for the delay in filling the vacant inspector general positions ... We ... request that the administration provide us with estimated target dates for ... presidential nominations..."

Democrats say it's important to remember that there were numerous vacant inspector general positions under the Bush administration as well.  Both Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.,  made the point during Tuesday's hearing.

"We should not single out the current administration for purely partisan reasons." Cummings cautioned. "While Connolly acknowledged the problem likely goes beyond politics.  Of the vacancies during both the Bush and Obama administrations Connolly said, "I think that, perhaps, suggests something about how onerous and difficult the Senate process has become."

Fox News' Sarah Courtney contributed to this report.