WASHINGTON — Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is pressing Barack Obama to fill the Interior Department’s investigative watchdog position that has remained vacant throughout the president’s term leaving the agency vulnerable to waste and fraud.
Mary Kendall has served as the acting inspector general since February 2009, and generated controversy for ignoring investigations that involve political appointees or might damage the administration’s priorities.
Kendall is also under investigation for conflict of interest charges by the Committee of the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency, and is accused of providing inaccurate and misleading information to Congress.
Lamborn has been a chief critic of Kendall’s temporary hold over the investigative agency, and had the opportunity to directly address her during a House Resources subcommittee hearing he chaired Tuesday.
Lamborn pointedly described the crucial investigations that have been halted under her direction, instances when the investigative agency crossed boundaries to collaborate on policy matters, “and softened reports that could have embarrassed the administration.”
Most notably, Kendall investigated how a report from the National Academy of Engineers was altered to endorse a ban on drilling, which the academy did not support. The falsification was not made public until well after the ban went into effect and eliminated thousands of jobs throughout the Gulf Coast region and created a decline in energy production.
It was later revealed that a White House staffer edited the report to make it appear the engineers endorsed the moratorium, and that Kendall had actually played a role in the report’s development.
“The Department of Interior needs to have an independent watchdog to protect against fraud, waste and abuse, and to keep Congress appraised of management problems and wrongdoing in the department,” Lamborn said.
“The committee has significant concerns that the office of inspector general (IG) under Miss Kendall’s leadership has lacked the necessary independence required of an inspector general, and has been too accommodating in its investigation and reviews of the department,” Lamborn said.
Kendall has refused to cooperate with the House Resources Committee’s investigation of the agency’s 2010 moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Kendall continues to snub subpoenas ordering her to produce documents from the inspector general’s office surrounding the investigation.
Committee Republicans are also concerned that Kendall’s previous testimony before the panel “has been inaccurate and misleading,” Lamborn said.
“To be clear, Miss Kendall has little credibility before this committee as a witness,” Lamborn said. “It is also unfortunate that Miss Kendall has remained in charge of the IG in spite of these problems, and that her presence there continues to tarnish the reputation of the office and the hard work of the IGs many dedicated employees,” Lamborn said.
“The president needs to nominate a permanent, independent replacement to lead the IG without further delay,” Lamborn said.