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Award-winning watchdogs to be honored

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Politicians talk plenty about rooting waste, fraud and abuse, but on Tuesday some of the folks who actually find the corruption will enjoy a few moments in the limelight.

The nation's federal watchdogs will honor 85 of their own for work on some of the most important, jaw-dropping, headline-inducing investigations of the past year.

Collectively, federal inspectors general identified almost $44 billion in potential savings during fiscal 2009, according to the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Investigations in 2009 resulted in $34.9 billion in potential savings from audit reports, $8.9 billion in federal funds recovered, more than 5,900 successful criminal prosecutions and 4,485 suspensions or debarments of delinquent individuals or contractors. They fielded a combined 417,349 calls to their hotlines and published more than 7,000 audits, evaluations and other reports.

Here's a list of some of this year's winners:

-- The 2010 Alexander Hamilton Award -- the group's most prestigious -- goes to the Defense Department watchdog's work on investigating whether the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund was used properly. (Hint: It wasn't.)

-- The team of Securities and Exchange Commission that determined the agency did little to stop Bernard L. Madoff's ponzi scheme will be honored with the group's Better Government Award. The team's reporting inspired a series of financial regulatory reforms.

-- The Commerce Department's 2010 Census Oversight Team will be honored for "exemplary service" for a recurring series of reports on the planning, coordination, and execution of the largest decennial census in American history. (Example: Census workers who did no work were paid.)

-- The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will be honored with an award for dedication and courage for its reports on potential threats directed at the Internal Revenue Service and its workers. (Example: IRS investigates flurry of threats against its workers and facilities.)

So when you hear Democrats and Republicans railing against government waste in the next few weeks, just remember, these are the folks working behind the scenes to actually find it -- and who help keep government accountability reporters like The Eye employed!

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: A new Post poll finds 52 percent of Americans believe federal workers are overpaid, and more than a third believe they're less qualified than private sector workers. But three out of four respondents who interacted with a federal employee said it was a positive experience. What do you think? E-mail federalworker@washpost.com and please include your full name and hometown. We may use your comments in Friday's Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: Supreme Court to hear an appeal of former attorney general John Ashcroft.

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT:
Ruling imperils sugar production: U.S. sugar production will be cut by about 20 percent if farmers are banned from planting genetically modified beets next year, according to USDA data.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Pentagon asks media not to publish war leaks: It's bracing for the potential disclosure of hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war documents.

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT:
Discipline rate of black students in Del., elsewhere is probed: Federal investigators are in the process of visiting all of Christina, Del.'s schools and have requested detailed discipline data for at least the last two academic years.

FAA:
Flight delays cost passengers nearly $17 billion, report finds: There is now a dollar amount to put on the collective rage of U.S. airline passengers over flight delays: $16.7 billion, according to a new agency report.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Thrift Savings Plan budget to remain flat in 2011: The board overseeing the program voted not to increase its budget and will require the agency to reconsider several costly initiatives.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
Deportation program grows: It scans local jails for illegal immigrants and is being expanded across Texas, the latest front in the nation's battle over immigration policy.

U.S. government using Facebook for surveillance: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services advises staff how to infiltrate social networks for the equivalent of an "unannounced cyber 'site-visit.'"

Airlines seek to move air marshals from first class: The Air Transport Association, the Washington trade group representing large carriers, and several airline CEOs recently appealed to DHS to move marshals to seats farther back in planes.

Lack of linguists hamper government's mission, officials say: Employees who can speak a foreign language are becoming more critical to federal missions, but officials say gaps in language capabilities are hampering work domestically and abroad.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Justice Dept. sues Michigan Blue Cross over pricing deals: The suit targets "most favored nation" clauses between the company and health care providers that essentially guarantee that no competing health care plan can obtain a better rate.

4 men are convicted in NY synagogue-bombing plot: The sting never put New Yorkers at risk. But the defendants "thought this was real," the government said.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | October 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: CIA files suit against former spy Ishmael Jones

Comments

I can't wait for the air marshal's to start filing disability claims based on the design of aircraft seats.

Under gov't waste - on an upcoming work trip, all gov't fare return flights were sold out. A non-contract fare was $500 more expensive then contract fare. If I stayed an extra day and telecommuted, my lodging and per diem would be $200 (as opposed to $500) and the taxpayers get a full day work. As is, I'm required to fly back, costing the taxpayer an unnecessary $300 and the gov't a day's productivity.

Is that waste? I'll be glad to be home Friday night, but it's unnecessary inefficiency.

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