12.13.2013 0

HHS Inspector General: The right man for the job

LevinsonBy Rick Manning

Sometimes the exact right person is in the exact right place at the exact right time.

With trust in the federal government’s ability to honestly report what is going on rightfully at a low, Obama’s Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebellius succumbed to universal frustration about the failed healthcare.gov website by announcing that she was asking for the Department’s independent Inspector General to conduct an investigation into what went wrong.

Ordinarily, this “internal investigation” would reek of cover up.  This natural suspicion that the Obama Administration will use this IG investigation to thwart Congress’ oversight to buy time is certainly valid, and I’m confident that we will hear Secretary Sebellius not answer questions in the future deferring to the ongoing Inspector General investigation.

So what is the Inspector General’s Office’s job and who is this mysterious uber-investigator charged with unraveling the mysteries of the Obamacare website and in fact, the entire scope of missed deadlines, shady grants and other suspicious activities within HHS in relation to Obamacare?

The Office of the Inspector General’s website provides some clarity as to what an investigation really looks like,

“Generally, an investigation is carried out to resolve specific allegations, complaints, or information concerning possible violations of law, regulation, or policy. In contrast, an OIG audit or evaluation is conducted to examine organizational program performance or financial management matters, typically of a systemic nature.”

While this sounds pretty mundane, and certainly not the stuff of hour-long, Dick Wolf produced television dramas, an IG audit or investigation is much more likely to entail teams of accountants and lawyers methodically and meticulously reviewing documents and questioning participants with the goal of identifying what, if anything went wrong, and how it can be prevented in the future.

It was the pending release of the IRS Inspector General’s report on the illegal targeting of tea party groups by the tax collecting agency that led to Lois Lerner’s infamous Friday speech where she acknowledged the practice had been undertaken.

The EPA Inspector General has been at the heart of uncovering  a scheme at the Agency by a high ranking official who pretended to be a CIA Agent to justify expenses and the culpability of some of Administrator Gina McCarthy’s closest confidantes in enabling it.

Yet there are concerns that in some Agencies that either Obama’s failure to even appoint an Inspector General or the quality of work done by the appointee prevents an honest public accounting and the watchdog nature of the office thwarted.

This will not be the case at the Health and Human Services Department where the Inspector General is a highly respected attorney named Dan Levinson.

Levinson has a long, distinguished career in government oversight prior to his appointment at HHS having served four years as Inspector General of the U. S. General Services Administration with previous extended stints as Chairman of the United States Merit Systems Protection Board, and as the General Counsel of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I have known Dan for around twenty years connected by a mutual enjoyment of our alma mater’s U.S.C. Trojan football team.  While we are mere acquaintances, I can report that Levinson is exactly the kind of quiet, get it done, honest professional who has prepared his entire life to meet this exact type of challenge will conduct a thorough, exacting investigation that can be trusted.

In a town where bluster, gimmickry and political gamesmanship are the trademark qualities to rise to the top, Dan Levinson has used intense intelligence and a low-key competence to gain the trust necessary to progress to the HHS Inspector General position.

Dan Levinson is the right man, at the right place, at the right time.  Now, Congress needs to provide the HHS Inspector General’s Office additional funding to meet the massive internal oversight responsibility over Obamacare’s implementation in a timely and fair manner.  If there was malfeasance in giving the contract to build the website to a sole source Canadian contractor who was a friend of Michelle Obama, the truth will come out and people will be held accountable.  no matter where the trail may lead.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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