Lawmakers offer warning to OMB

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said late on Tuesday that they are concerned about potential actions by the Office of Management and Budget, led by Peter Orszag.

The members are looking at a situation detailed in a letter from the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general. Patrick McFarland, the inspector general, said his office received a "not so veiled threat from OMB" concerning his office's ability to comment to Congress about its proposed budget.

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"I am alerting you about a very serious matter that represents an attempt to thwart an authority provided to us by the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 and that creates a risk of compromising our operational independence," McFarland told lawmakers.

McFarland described a situation in which his office felt like OMB "will make life miserable" for it on issues pending before Congress.

Towns and Lynch sent letters about the situation to Orszag and Phyllis Fong, chairwoman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The lawmakers asked Orszag's office to conduct an internal review.

"If such statements were made they were entirely improper and pose a direct threat to the independence and integrity of inspectors general, and an affront to clear congressional intent as expressed in statute," said Towns and Lynch. 

A spokesman for OMB said the charges would be taken seriously.

"The Office of Management and Budget respects the independent role that federal inspectors general play and takes allegations of this sort very seriously," said an OMB spokesman. "The concerns raised by the OPM Inspector General about the possible actions of one OMB employee will be investigated thoroughly and quickly. If any improper interference has occurred, appropriate actions will be taken."