In the 1949 musical comedy "The Inspector General," Danny Kaye plays a wandering gypsy who’s mistakenly thought by a small village to be the inspector general in disguise. Not wanting all the attention to end, he asks a confidante, “What does an Inspector General do...inspect generals?”
Most people are familiar with a part of the mission of the Office of Inspector General (OIG)—to conduct independent inspections, audits and investigations that identify and prevent waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement by the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Today, however, Inspectors General also offer expert advice in improving operations—and provide timely, useful information that helps decision-makers and results in measurable gains.
“We don’t play ‘gotcha’,” said Harold Geisel, Deputy Inspector General. “We lean forward to help the Department as much as we can, while not jeopardizing our independence. For example, if we’re auditing an office and we find an obvious situation where a change in procedures will save a significant amount of money, we let them know what we think right then—we don’t wait until months later when the audit is published. We’ll still include the finding, but also add that the office was alerted and made the necessary improvements. It’s just common sense,” he said.
The Office of Inspections may come to mind first when thinking of OIG. “Most people in State know about us because they’ve been inspected by or provided information to our teams either at post or here in Washington,” said Robert Peterson, AIG for Inspections. “Our teams combine seasoned Civil Service and Foreign Service officers who have the experience and insight to provide a top-to-bottom review that includes recommendations to improve accountability and solve issues.”
Of OIG’s offices, the Office of Inspections covers the broadest area, including executive direction, implementation of U.S. policy and programs, resource management, internal controls, and security oversight. “In the more than 40 inspections we conduct each year, our goal is not just to point out problems and deficiencies but to leave each place or program operating better than it was when we arrived. Our compliance records indicate that we are meeting that goal,” says Peterson.
This goal is shared by the Office of Audits, but from a different perspective. “An audit is required to adhere to Government Auditing Standards—also called the ‘Yellow Book’”, said Evelyn R. Klemstine, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) for Audits. “Some audits are rooted in legislative mandates, such as those for financial statements and information technology oversight. Others are not, including audits of contracts, grants, property, procurement, and security.” Audit policies and standards are maintained through the office’s quality control, planning, and administrative support group.
Like their counterparts in Inspections, it’s not just a numbers game—auditing the Department’s operations has a human side, as well. “It’s not always the largest dollar program that gets audited,” says Klemstine. “OIG also targets high-risk, high-priority areas in the Department that help achieve its strategic goals. Other considerations for audit risk include known control weaknesses or recent turnover of senior management, creation of a new program or changes to a program, as well as the protection of individuals and property.”
Department officials recognize the value of the audit function. In response to the Department’s 2008 financial statement audit, Brad Higgins, the former chief financial officer, said, “Our work with the independent auditor and [OIG] office over the past 10 years has been collaborative, productive, and a catalyst for positive change."
In January 2008, OIG established its first permanent operational office outside the U.S.—the Middle East Regional Office (MERO) - with offices in Washington, DC and the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and satellite offices in Baghdad, Kabul, and Islamabad. As of August 1, 2011, MERO became the Middle East Region Operations Directorate, within the Office of Audits.
The MERO Directorate’s mission is to provides oversight and assistance for high-cost, high-risk Department programs and activities located in crisis and post-conflict areas. Audits and reviews performed by the directorate include those addressing contractor performance and procurement issues of embassies in the Middle East region, with a specific focus on security and security assistance, provincial reconstruction teams, refugee assistance, anti-corruption, police training, and rule-of-law programs.
In addition, the MERO Directorate’s work includes evaluating the effectiveness of foreign assistance programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries in the region. The MERO Directorate provides proactive assistance to the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization through increased oversight of post-conflict and anti-corruption activities.
A senior bureau chief who recently received one of MERO’s reports said his staff “was not too happy reading the report—but it was factual and unbiased, which will help us in correcting some of our policies and procedures.”
Another way OIG ensures the Department and BBG missions maintain the highest standards of efficiency and integrity is through criminal, civil, and administrative investigations. Suspected activities involving fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement relating to the programs and operations of the Department are referred to the Office of Investigations (INV) for review and possible investigation.
“INV’s paramount goal is to resolve allegations in a timely manner through independent, objective, and professional investigations that lead to successful prosecutions, administrative sanctions or exonerations,” says Anna Gershman, AIG for Investigations. “INV’s criminal investigators travel worldwide to gather relevant facts, exhaust investigative leads, and produce Reports of Investigations that enable prosecutors and adjudicating entities to reach the appropriate conclusions.”
INV has a strategic presence in the Middle East Region that serves to increase responsiveness and efficiency with regard to alleged violations in the eastern hemisphere.
An essential tool used in investigations is the OIG Hotline, which provides a confidential means of reporting suspected violations involving Department assets, empoyees, or contractors.
One senior Assistant U.S. Attorney, who prosecuted an OIG/INV case commented on Special Agent Lea Nelson, “I can honestly say that in my 25 years as a federal prosecutor, Lea is one of the best fraud investigators I have ever had the pleasure to work with…I am confident that had Lea not worked the case, (the subject) would have stolen much more from the State Department than he did.”
OIG Investigators provide the Department and BBG with proactive fraud awareness and prevention briefings, and conduct investigations that support the effectiveness of high-risk, high-visibility programs and operations. The Office of Investigations will also issue Management Assistance Reports and/or Fraud Alert Bulletins when systemic weaknesses are uncovered.
The Office of Investigations provides dispassionate oversight to detect and deter fraud, waste, and abuse thereby promoting increased economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.
As Deputy Inspector General Geisel notes, “Independence is the cornerstone of an effective OIG—but when we can work together as colleagues, both the OIG and the Department benefit with improved economy, efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of programs and initiatives.”
This site is managed by the Office of Inspector General and the Bureau of Public Affairs as a source of information from the Office of Inspector General. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.