Document Type

White Paper

Publication Date

5-2021

Abstract

Amidst a global pandemic, President Donald Trump removed five inspectors general within the federal government, including the inspector general in charge of overseeing the coronavirus response efforts in health agencies and the inspector general directly involved with the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. The President’s unprecedented actions against government oversight officials calls attention to an otherwise little-noticed institution and signals a growing need for accountability in government on all levels.

Independence is critical to the success of an inspector general in the performance of their statutory duties. Those duties are compromised, however, when the authority that oversees the inspector general removes them from office due to political or self-serving motivations. In light of President Trump's unprecedented actions, changes to the institutional structure of federal inspectors general should look to the states, such as Massachusetts, where the inspector general is more insulated from politics and may not be removed unilaterally. In Part I, the history, general structure, and key characteristics of federal inspectors general are examined. Part II explores the history and structure of the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, as well as key characteristics. Finally, Part III discusses the importance of institutional independence to inspectors general in the context of President Trump's removals and argues potential reforms to prevent future actions on the federal level.

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