The Institute of Internal Auditors has called on Congress today to fully support efforts by federal inspectors general to ensure unrestricted access to information needed for their investigations, as allowed by federal law.

In a letter delivered to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, IIA president and CEO Richard F. Chambers wrote that “any effort to circumvent or block an IG’s investigative process should be challenged by all who seek accountability from our government.”

The IIA statement comes in response to a letter signed last month by 47 inspectors general complaining about “serious” obstacles faced in trying to obtain crucial documents as part of their investigative efforts. The IGs’ letter specifically cited access problems at the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Peace Corps. The IGs wrote that the Inspector General Act of 1978 mandates “timely and complete access to information.”

In the IIA’s letter, submitted ahead of Wednesday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Chambers wrote, “At a time when Americans are demanding greater accountability from leaders in the public and private sectors, we are profoundly concerned that the one office charged with holding our elected and appointed federal officials accountable is being handcuffed in its ability to do its job.”

Chambers credited leaders of the House committee and of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee for their bipartisan support for the inspectors general, but warned of a “slippery slope” if any restrictions on access are allowed to persist.

“Allowing any agency to block access to information based on competing legal protections” would severely limit IG investigations and erode “IGs’ legislative and statutory authority,” Chambers wrote.

Chambers said the IIA was prepared to assist lawmakers in educating agency officials and staff toward “understanding the importance of maintaining IGs’ unfettered access to information and the absolute need for independence.”

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