The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released guidance on Dec. 3 encouraging Federal agencies to cooperate and support their agency inspectors general (IGs).
The new memorandum – entitled Promoting Accountability Through Cooperation Among Agencies and Inspectors General – directs leadership at Federal agencies to communicate with their staffs the expectation that all government employees and contractors fully cooperate with their agency IG. The memorandum also includes best practices and general guidelines to enhance this cooperation.
“[The President expects] that executive departments and agencies will restore and respect the integrity and independence of their respective agency IGs, and work with the Congress to ensure that IG offices can exercise their vital oversight role,” OMB Acting Director Shalanda Young said in a letter introducing the memo.
The role of the IG at Federal agencies is to promote the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of programs and operations in each agency and to prevent and detect fraud and abuse. Agency leadership also shares these responsibilities with their respective IGs, meaning “agency leadership and their IGs must cooperate to achieve those goals,” OMB said.
The following practices are general guidelines the memo put forward to enhance cooperation among agencies and their respective IGs:
- Routine meetings to have candid discussions between the appropriate IG officials and agency leadership;
- Candid discussions about the resource needs of the IG to both ensure adequate funding and shared services to do their work as efficiently as possible;
- Designation of a senior official to serve in a liaison role within the agency to work with IG staff during audits to smooth interactions;
- Development of a successful new process to promote proactive and transparent collaboration for new and expanded American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act programs;
- Fostering of work environments in which employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and reporting wrongdoing without fear of retaliation;
- Utilizing enterprise risk management practices to identify risks associated with achieving program results; and
- Promptly responding to IG reports to preclude lingering open recommendations.
The memo also includes language from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), who surveyed IGs and identified key elements to effective communication and cooperation between agencies and IGs.
“CIGIE appreciates OMB’s efforts to ensure inspectors general receive the cooperation required by the Inspector General Act. The guidance issued today by OMB is unprecedented and will enhance the ability of OIGs to conduct the independent oversight that is needed to serve the interests of the American public,” said CIGIE Chair Allison Lerner in a press release.
“The framework cooperation memorandum issued emphasizes what we believe to be the best practices across the IG community. It helps communicate the vital issues of full IG access and cooperation consistently throughout the Executive Branch and will strengthen OIG’s independence,” said Vice-Chair Mark Lee Greenblatt.