June 03, 2021
GAO: “Without addressing these and other long-standing management and operational weaknesses, DHS OIG is not well positioned to fulfill its oversight mission.”
(WASHINGTON) – Today, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member John Katko, and Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member James Comer announced the release of a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report they requested on systemic management problems at the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG).
“It is critical that DHS, a large agency with a national security mission, has an Office of Inspector General that is fully functional and conducting effective oversight,” the Members said. “We expect the DHS OIG to fulfill its mission with independence, integrity, transparency, and accountability, but this report makes clear the office must make significant changes to do so. GAO has presented clear evidence that the failure to address long-standing weaknesses has impacted the quality and timeliness of the OIG’s work, and has resulted in arbitrary decision-making leading to diminished morale and complaints of leadership favoritism. While Inspector General Cuffari responded by saying that work on addressing GAO’s recommendations has begun, we need to see a complete implementation plan and real action to accomplish it in order to assess whether the office is on the right track.”
In its report, GAO found that the DHS OIG has not followed a number of professional standards and key practices for effective management. GAO made 21 recommendations for the DHS OIG to fix its long-standing management, organizational, and operational weaknesses which all remain open. GAO’s findings include:
- It is not clear why the Inspector General chooses to approve some investigations but refuses to approve others. GAO reported that in the summer of 2020, DHS OIG officials stated, “they are often unsure why the Inspector General chooses to pursue certain work and declines to pursue other work and that this confusion led to frustration among staff.”
- DHS OIG operated much of the past six years without a strategic plan, which GAO found “limits [OIG’s] ability to implement other organizational performance management activities.” Without a strategic plan, “DHS OIG staff may not understand its oversight priorities and goals, which can negatively affect operations and staff performance.”
- DHS OIG has lacked consistent quality assurance standards for its audit, inspection, and evaluation work, which forced some reports to be retracted. GAO found that without such standards, “DHS OIG cannot know if its internal processes ensure that its work (1) adheres to its policies and (2) meets established standards of performance.”
- DHS OIG has consistently failed to follow best practices for large, structural changes to the organization, exacerbating other structural issues that GAO uncovered.
- For reasons GAO could not determine, the DHS OIG’s report completion time has greatly increased in recent years, with many reports released more than 18 months after the start of a review and some released after more than 2 years. These delays diminish the utility of the OIG’s oversight work and, as the GAO report notes, have repeatedly led to concerns in Congress and at DHS.
- DHS OIG has lacked an effective system in place to communicate with DHS on its recommendations to the Department.
- GAO found that, while the Inspector General has begun taking actions to address GAO’s concerns, “given the breadth of the weaknesses we have identified, such actions will require significant leadership commitment and follow-through over time.”
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Adam Comis (Thompson): 202-225-9978
Jamitress Bowden (Maloney): 202-226-5181
Lesley Byers (Katko): 202-834-5230
Jessica Collins (Comer): 202-225-5074
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