Would a permanent inspector general at the U.S. State Department have flagged then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private account for her e-mails? That was one of the questions raised at a Senate panel hearing on the lack of permanent inspectors general in the Obama administration.
Inspectors general serve as independent watchdogs at executive agencies. According to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, seven of the 33 IG posts in the Obama administration are being filled by temporary appointees. The administration has nominated permanent IGs for just three of the vacancies.
Opening Wednesday's hearing, committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said temporary appointees "are not truly independent, as they can be removed by the agency at any time, they are only temporary and do not drive office policy, and they are at greater risk of compromising their work to appease the agency or the president."
The four agencies without nominees for permanent IGs are the Department of the Interior, the Veterans Administration, the Export Import Bank and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, Danielle Brian, testified that there was no permanent IG at the State Department for the duration of Secretary Clinton's tenure:
"This raises the obvious question as to whether someone at the agency would have blown the whistle on the Secretary's refusal to use government emails, had there been real watchdog in place."
The Obama administration did not send a representative to the hearing.