Oversight Committee Launches Probe Concerning WMATAObstruction of the work of its Inspector General 

Chairman Comer requests briefing and documents from WMATA Chairman Paul Smedberg

WASHINGTON — Today, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) launched an investigation into reports that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has failed to properly cooperate with its Office of Inspector General (OIG). The investigation was initiated after WMATA recently saw its second IG depart in just the past two years.  In a letter to WMATA Chairman Paul Smedberg, Chairman Comer emphasized that the WMATA OIG—which is charged with critical duties to investigate and expose waste, fraud, and abuse—must be provided the autonomy it has been granted under federal law. The Committee is requesting a briefing, documents, and information to ensure WMATA management is not interfering with the OIG’s critical work. 

“The Committee is investigating actions taken by WMATA with respect to its OIG. The forced resignation of Inspector General Rene Febles marked the second departure of a WMATA IG in just two years. Febles’s resignation followed an OIG audit report describing WMATA’s failure to make policy and procedural changes necessary to enable the OIG to ‘exercise procurement and HR independence in accordance with the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act].’ In other words, Febles found WMATA management failed to provide the OIG with the statutory autonomy it was accorded by a law that will send over $1 billion in federal funding to WMATA, atop $2.4 billion in pandemic relief funds it had recently been awarded by Congress,” said Chairman Comer. 

Lack of independence for the WMATA OIG is a long-standing concern. Febles’s predecessor as IG, Geoffrey Cherrington, repeatedly stressed that the OIG office needed to have greater autonomy and noted that the OIG had minimal protection if a WMATA board member wanted to alter OIG office policies or practices. WMATA’s first and longest serving IG, Helen Lew, experienced similar frustrations, arguing for the OIG office to have greater independence from WMATA management.  

“We are concerned that WMATA is not sufficiently willing to accommodate robust oversight from its OIG. WMATA’s actions since Febles’s departure further underscore the need for our investigation. Following IG Febles’s departure in November, WMATA named as Acting IG a lawyer from a firm to which WMATA reportedly paid over $2 million in consulting fees. This despite…public comments that the WMATA board ‘fully supports’ the role of the inspector general’s office and has ‘ensured that the office has the independence necessary to carry out their duties and responsibilities without interference or undue influence,’” continued Chairman Comer. “We are concerned that the OIG…is not receiving sufficient cooperation and support from WMATA, yielding a serious lack of accountability and transparency. We request documents and communications to assist us in our investigation into this matter.”

Read the letter to Chairman Smedberg here.

Originally published at https://www.einpresswire.com/article/716301140/oversight-committee-launches-probe-concerning-wmataobstruction-of-the-work-of-its-inspector-general

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