Inspectors General

Independence of Legal Services Provided to IGs Gao ID: OGC-95-15 March 1, 1995

Inspectors General (IG), which audit and investigate their agencies' programs and operations, are authorized to hire employees, including attorneys, to help them carry out their duties. Most presidentially appointed IGs initially obtained legal services from their agencies' Office of General Counsel, and five IGs continue to do so. These arrangements have raised questions about whether attorneys from an agency's Office of General Counsel can provide the independent legal services needed by officials who must independently review that agency's programs and operations. This report compares the independence of legal services provided by IGs by attorneys in agencies' Office of General Counsel with those provided by attorneys in Offices of Inspector General.

GAO found that: (1) OGC attorneys may not provide independent legal advice due to pressure by senior OGC officials and concerns about their professional relations and career advancement; (2) since OGC-provided legal services could compromise the independence of IG investigations and audits, most IG have placed attorneys within their own offices; (3) 3 of the 5 IG that still depend on OGC attorneys have implemented memoranda of understanding with their general counsels that delineate IG independence, their attorneys' responsibilities, the handling of sensitive information, and other requirements such as IG concurrence in attorney selection, retention, and appraisal; (4) the 3 IG are satisfied with their legal arrangements and note that they have the option of moving their attorneys into their offices if the attorneys' independence becomes suspect; (5) the other 2 agency IG are not satisfied with their legal arrangements and are currently reviewing them; (6) the size and grade levels of IG legal staff, the scope and nature of their work, and their reliance on other agency attorneys varies depending on which office they are located in; and (7) there are no indications that OGC attorneys are less able to provide independent legal services than OIG attorneys.

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