IGs Need Subpoena Power; Only Witnesses Can Provide the Facts That Prove Malfeasance

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

IGs Need Subpoena Power; Only Witnesses Can Provide the Facts That Prove Malfeasance


Byline: Gerald Walpin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Rep. Darrell Issa has a long and applauded nonpartisan record of support for inspectors general (IGs) and their important role in uncovering fraud, waste and abuse in government. It is therefore surprising to find him under attack for proposing to give IGs the tool of subpoena power to obtain deposition testimony from witnesses.

As one who served as an inspector general, only to be fired by the succeeding president for doing my job of uncovering fraud, waste and abuse, I think I have the experience to comment on Mr. Issa's proposal.

Those opposed to his proposal have characterized it as one more way to cripple the presidency. But if that position were accepted (and I would not) that contention suggests that the IG position should not exist. As long as IGs exist, they should have a necessary tools to perform their delegated responsibility.

Witness subpoena power is not a novel tool within our judicial and law enforcement systems. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission can subpoena witnesses to testify. Even attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants in private civil cases can subpoena witnesses to give depositions. IGs already have the power to subpoena documents, but without a witness explaining the documents and adding unrecorded knowledge about them, no certainty can exist on their meaning.

It is no response to the need for testimonial subpoena power that possible fraud, once identified, can be referred to the Department of Justice. In the real world, U.S. attorneys' offices are overloaded and, thus, almost always insist that the referring agency provide a case on a silver platter and will not usually do the investigation to determine if there is a case.

One very large case in my IG office demonstrates how the IG's lack of witness subpoena power frustrates justice. …

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