Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Breaux (D-La.), and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday asked the General Accounting Office to conduct a complete management review of the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The letter specifically asks the GAO to examine complaints that many top scientists were forced out of their jobs and replaced with less-qualified conservative ideologues who reflect the Bush administration's positions. Grassley said he has been informed of 19 involuntary senior-level changes at the OIG, including the departure of all six deputy inspectors general--five of whom had more than 30 years of experience--since Janet Rehnquist, daughter of conservative Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist, was appointed inspector general in 2001.
"I can understand the need to clean house at a place where the wheels have fallen off [but that is not the case here]," Grassley said. "I can't overlook the loss of high-ranking government servants with decades of service who have performed their jobs well."
The senators asked the GAO to determine if the staff changes at the OIG are affecting the agency's ability to ensure that HHS programs do not waste funds or break federal laws. The senators also asked the GAO to look into the office's resource allocation, human resources, and general management practices. Rehnquist did not respond to the senators' letter but did write to the GAO, saying that she is confident its review will find no wrongdoing.