Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Reacts to DOJ IG’s Statement on IG Access Issues
July 24, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 24, 2015 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a memorandum yesterday to the Deputy Attorney General concerning DOJ OIG’s access to grand jury, wiretap, and credit information. Peace Corps OIG fully supports Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s statement in response to OLC’s opinion.
“This opinion is an invitation for agencies to unilaterally decide when they can or cannot release information to the IG. Such a result not only undermines IG independence and effective oversight but presents a clear conflict of interest. This decision in many ways guarantees IGs will be forced to spend time and taxpayer resources wrangling with their agency to obtain information they are entitled to under the Inspector General’s Act of 1978, as amended (IG Act) - as I have done for well over two years,” said Peace Corps IG Kathy A. Buller.
Peace Corps OIG’s access issues stem from a sensitive and important subject: the Peace Corps’ handling of volunteer reports of sexual assault. OIG’s push for access is about fulfilling its collective responsibility to ensure that Congress, the Peace Corps, and OIG does everything possible to ensure volunteers – who sacrifice so much when serving in remote corners of the world – receive the services they need and the response they deserve from the agency when they are victims of a sexual assault.
The agency’s basis for the denial of information is a legal opinion by the former Peace Corps general counsel that the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 overrides the IG’s right of access under the IG Act. OIG’s access issue has led to three congressional hearings, extensive press coverage, a hold being placed on the nomination of the Director, and, ultimately, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the agency and OIG, which resulted in access to more, but not all, of the information.
“Congress has the power to take legislative action to resolve this issue and ensure all OIGs get full access to agency records. I urge it to do so,” said IG Buller.
About Peace Corps OIG: As mandated by Congress, OIG provides the Peace Corps with independent oversight of all agency programs and operations. OIG conducts audits, evaluations, and investigations domestically and overseas. The Inspector General reports directly to Congress and the Peace Corps Director, keeping them fully and currently informed concerning the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. For more information go to www.peacecorps.gov/oig