House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Oversight Committee Republicans are launching a probe into efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obstruct oversight by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Republican lawmakers raise concerns about a memo advising employees on how to impede OIG investigations, including how to avoid turning over documents and systems access. The Republican lawmakers are requesting documents and communications about DHS’s efforts to deny the OIG access to information needed to conduct its audits and investigations.
“We write to investigate efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to obstruct oversight by the DHS Office of Inspector General. According to recent reports, DHS is advising employees on how to impede OIG oversight including how to avoid turning over documents and systems access to the OIG,” wrote the Republican lawmakers. “In light of the growing catastrophe along the southern border, DHS’s obstruction is particularly troubling. Rather than committing time and resources to deny information to the OIG, DHS should be dedicating resources to protecting the southern border. We write to request documents and communications about DHS’s efforts to deny the DHS OIG access to information needed to conduct its audits and investigations.”
The OIG’s statutory mandate to have “timely access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other materials,” from DHS’s programmatic components. In early July, however, a briefing memorandum was allegedly circulated among Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees in preparation for a meeting with DHS OIG personnel. The memo encouraged CBP employees to resist the OIG’s request for access to CBP systems. CBP’s memo included flawed legal analyses, apparently sanctioned by DHS Office of General Counsel, to justify withholding information from the OIG.
“The OIG is currently auditing and investigating the effects of the Biden Administration’s border policies—policies that have created a dangerous, chaotic, and inhumane border. We are concerned DHS’s efforts to obstruct OIG oversight is targeted to CBP program areas. CBP employees, including U.S. Border Patrol agents, are on the frontlines of the border crisis. Therefore, DHS OIG must have access to these employees and CBP systems so it can accurately assess the Biden Administration’s decisions and execution of the law regarding our southern border,” continued the lawmakers.
Read the letter to Secretary Mayorkas here.