Obama Cans CNCS Inspector General Who Wrote Negative Report

June 12, 2009       Mike Patterson      

A week after issuing a blistering report about a Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) grant, the agency’s inspector general will be removed from his position, according to a CNCS statement issued late yesterday.

President Barack Obama will remove Gerald Walpin from his post, a move that would take effect in 30 days, consistent with the Inspector General Act. A CNCS official said the OIG’s latest report was unrelated to the decision to remove Walpin.

The report, issued June 4, criticized the use of CNCS grants for the Research Foundation for the City University of New York (RFCUNY) Fellows Program, which provided AmeriCorps member designation to teachers in the program. The OIG report said the RFCUNY-CNCS grant relationship “adds no service to the community which is not already provided by the Fellows Program” and that “taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth” with the grants.

The report also recommended CNCS terminate the grants, recover education awards and accrued interest awards paid, and all grant costs – approximately $45.1 million. A statement issued by CNCS said Board Chair Alan Solomont, Stephen Goldsmith, board vice chair, and Eric Tanenblatt, chair of the board’s management, audit, and governance committee, support the decision to remove Walpin.

“We strongly endorse the President’s decision with respect to Inspector General Gerald Walpin. We look forward to working with a new Inspector General,” according to the statement. The CNCS Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts and supervises audits and investigations into the Corporation’s programs. Walpin, a former New York attorney, was nominated for the inspector general post by former President George W. Bush, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn into office in January 2007.

As a general principle, the independence of an inspector general (IG) is crucial, according to Rick Cohen, former executive director of the National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) in Washington, D.C. Cohen said he could not speak to the quality of Walpin’s work in CNCS OIG.

“The independence of the IG is a critical bulwark to ensure the federal agencies are kept on the straight and narrow,” he said. Rapid expansion that CNCS will face with the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act would be a “huge challenge to any agency,” Cohen said, and critical scrutiny and transparency will be vital.

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, to take effect on Oct. 1, includes expanding AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 a year by 2014. The legislation authorizes $5.7 billion over the next six years, but Congress must still approve funding.

“The political independence of the IG is essential. And in this administration with the expansion of AmeriCorps, the expansion of the Corporation and with the overall stimulus expansion, the role of the IG in any department, not just the Corporation, is more important than ever,” Cohen said.

Kenneth Bach will serve as the acting Inspector General in the transition, according to a CNCS official. Bach previously served as an investigator with the CNCS OIG and the Department of the Interior OIG before coming back to CNCS in 2005 as OIG’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In May 2008, Bach was named the Assistant Inspector General for Support, while continuing his role as CTO, according to CNCS.