Dear Director Donovan:
We write to express our grave concern about difficulties that certain Inspectors General (IG) have encountered in trying to obtain documents from their respective agencies. Timely and complete access to information is essential if Inspectors General are to perform their missions, and their rights to information are clearly provided for in the Inspector General Act of 1978. We call on you to underscore this important fact and enlist your office to help ensure that agencies comply.
Earlier this week, we received a letter signed by 47 of the federal IGs raising serious concerns about difficulties some have faced receiving documents needed for their work. In particular, the letter (attached) details problems encountered by the respective Inspectors General for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the Peace Corps. This is not the first we have heard of these problems. Our offices have already spent time working with the affected IGs in an effort to try and help them gain the needed information. Indeed, Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings examined some of these concerns during hearings before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this year.
As the letter reflects, the affected IGs have gained access to some of the disputed material. Yet this progress occurred only after significant time and effort by numerous parties.
Under the Inspector General Act, IGs are broadly empowered to undertake whatever investigations or reports they consider "necessary or desirable." In support of this function, Section 6(a)(1) of the Act clearly states that IGs shall "have access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other material available to the applicable establishment which relate to programs and operations with respect to which that Inspector General has responsibilities under this Act."
We are pleased to note that in the majority of cases, IGs do receive requested information without undue argument or delay. But these recent conflicts raise concerns about agencies' interpretations of the Inspector General Act with respect to access. In most cases, IG access to requested materials should be beyond question. When conflict arises between an agency and an Inspector General, agencies should engage quickly and proactively with the affected Inspector General to try to resolve any possible conflicts in a manner that allows the Inspector General to do his or her work.
We trust that you share our commitment to the mission and effectiveness of the Inspectors General, and ask that you take affirmative steps to ensure that all agencies and their staffs are properly informed and trained on the requirements of the Inspectors General Act so that IGs receive the information they need to do their jobs.