Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waxman Investigating the IG for State

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform charged today in a 13-page letter that Howard J. Krongard, the Inspector General for the State Department has exhibited a persistent tendency to censor reports that might embarrass the administration, and has repeatedly thwarted investigations of the State Department. The letter was signed by Chairman Henry Waxman and released today by the committee.

The Oversight Committee based the charges on the testimony of seven current and former members of the IG’s staff, including two former senior officials who spoke on the record with no stipulation of anonymity. The letter clarifies that the charges are not limited to a single unit, but that the pattern is pervasive, affecting all three divisions of the IG’s office – audits, investigations and inspections.

…The letter charged that Krongard "interfered with ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment." It said that "your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies."

…Waxman accused Krongard of refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate $3 billion worth of State Department contracts; preventing his investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into waste and fraud in the construction of the U.S. embassy in Iraq; using "highly irregular" procedures to personally exonerate the embassy's prime contractor of labor abuses; interfering in the probe of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove; censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress; and refusing to publish critical audits of State's financial statements.

Inspectors General are supposed to be independent and objective investigators of waste, fraud and abuse, rather than ideology-driven agenda whores. Of course, the Bush maladministration has stood this notion on it’s head and applied a test of partisanship to everything. Prior to the appointment of Krongard, the IG for State had traditionally been a Foreign Service officer. Krongard was previously employed by an international law firm and had been general counsel for Deloitte & Touche

Emails of exchanges between staff members discussing Krongard’s decision to stonewall the Justice Department on the embassy investigation.

"Wow, as we all [k]now that is not the normal and proper procedure," an investigator wrote to Assistant IG John A. DeDona. DeDona forwarded the e-mail to the Deputy IG, William E. Todd, saying, "I have always viewed myself as a loyal soldier but hopefully you sense my frustration in my voicemail yesterday."

Todd wrote back: "I know you are very frustrated. John, you need to convey to the troops the truth, the IG told us both Tuesday to stand down on this and not assist, that needs to be the message."

DeDona responded: "Unfortunately, under the current regime, the view within INV [the office of investigations] is to keep working the BS cases within the beltway, and let us not rock the boat with more significant investigations."

The committee subpoenaed the work product for the embassy report which Krongard personally drafted, that exonerated the contractor building the new embassy in Iraq, First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co. The company was accused of horribly abusive labor practices, including holding employees against their will, but Krongard let First Kuwaiti off the hook with a mere six pages of vague, handwritten notes, showing that he interviewed only six employees – who were selected by First Kuwaiti. "Contrary to established investigative procedures, you allowed the subject of the investigation, First Kuwaiti, to select the employees you interviewed," Waxman charged. He added that the interview notes “did not show how thoroughly each employee was interviewed.”

Waxman charges that Krongard has, by his actions, created a “dysfunctional office environment” and that he routinely berated and belittled personnel, treated career government professionals contemptuously, and fostered an environment where people actually feared coming to work. The letter asserts that the high turnover in the department – which has resulted in only seven of 27 investigator positions currently filled – is due to the feckless leadership of Krongard.