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FAQs about the OIG

1. What is the OIG’s mission?
According to the GPO Inspector General Act of 1988 (codified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 3901-3903) and the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, the Inspector General’s mission is to:

  • Conduct independent and objective audits, inspections, investigations, and other reviews related to GPO programs and operations;
  • Promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in GPO programs and operations;
  • Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in GPO programs and operations; and
  • Keep the Director of GPO and Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies in GPO programs and operations and the necessity for and progress of corrective action.

2. What exactly is fraud, waste, and abuse?
The U.S. Government Accountability Office defines fraud, waste, and abuse as the following:

  • Fraud involves obtaining something of value through willful misrepresentation.
  • Waste is the act of using or expending resources carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose. Importantly, waste can include activities that do not include abuse and does not necessarily involve a violation of law. Rather, waste relates primarily to mismanagement, inappropriate actions, and inadequate oversight.
  • Abuse is behavior that is deficient or improper when compared with behavior that a prudent person would consider reasonable and necessary business practice given the facts and circumstances, but excludes fraud and noncompliance with provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. Abuse also includes misuse of authority or position for personal financial interests or those of an immediate or close family member or business associate.

3. How do I report fraud, waste, or abuse in GPO programs or operations?
You may report allegations to the OIG Hotline through our website, by phone at
1 800-743-7574, or by U.S. Mail:
 
U.S. Government Publishing Office
Office of the Inspector General Hotline
P.O. Box 1790
Washington, DC 20013-1790 

You can also submit complaints via the drop box at the OIG’s office at GPO’s Washington, DC, headquarters, in Room C-521.

4. How can the OIG be independent and also be part of the agency?
The OIG’s responsibilities are focused on oversight of agency programs and operations. To better enable the effectiveness of this oversight, Congress established the OIG to act independently from the agency, under the direction of the Inspector General. Here are some examples of the OIG’s independence:

  • The Inspector General has sole discretion to carry out audits, inspections, and investigations, and the right to do so without interference.
  • The OIG has direct access to all agency records and information. The agency does not have an attorney-client or deliberative-process privilege regarding OIG requests for information.
  • Subject to approval by the U.S. Attorney General, the OIG has access to Federal grand jury materials otherwise protected from disclosure under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  • Agency personnel are required to cooperate with the OIG in all audits, inspections, and investigations. Employees cannot be retaliated against for providing information to or cooperating with the OIG.
  • The OIG responds directly to requests from Congressional committees, Members of Congress, and invitations to testify at Congressional hearings.
  • The OIG makes its own budgetary decisions. The office hires and controls its staff, manages its contract resources, and maintains and develops its own policies.

5. What is an audit?
An audit is a systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which certain criteria are met. OIG audits focus on the financial aspects of GPO operations. They provide GPO management with information to address emerging strategic issues and major risks and management challenges the organization faces.

Audits are conducted pursuant to the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), known as the “Yellow Book,” issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. GAGAS provides a framework for conducting high quality government audits with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence.

Audit reports containing findings and recommendations are issued to appropriate officials. Audit reports are public documents and are posted on the GPO OIG’s webpage as well as Oversight.gov.

6. What is an inspection?
An inspection is an independent review and assessment of GPO programs, results, and/or resource management. Inspections can be very narrowly focused, looking at a single transaction within a large system or can look at overall system controls. They can also take a broader, multi-disciplinary approach to reviewing and assessing GPO programs, results, resource management and policies. Inspections are designed to provide information to decision makers in a timely manner. They are designed to be flexible and to result in reports that provide meaningful and persuasive information and recommendations for improvements to increase the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Inspections are performed in accordance with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation, known as the “Blue Book.” Generally, an inspection goes through three phases: planning, fieldwork, and reporting.

Inspection reports containing findings and recommendations are issued to appropriate officials. They are public documents and are posted on the GPO OIG’s webpage as well as Oversight.gov.

7. How are audits and inspections selected?

The Inspector General sets the OIG’s priorities for audits and inspections by weighing issues such as risk, the past experience of the agency, the cost to the U.S. taxpayer and GPO customers, and impact to the GPO mission. The Inspector General also seeks input from our stakeholders, such as GPO management and employees as well as Congress.

Each year, we create an Annual Work Plan outlining our planned audits and inspections for the coming fiscal year. Throughout the year, we may adjust our plan to add reviews based on new issues and requests and remove items that cannot be started due to lack of resources.

8. What is an investigation?
An investigation looks into possible violations of law, regulation, or policy; consequently, the OIG conducts criminal, civil, and/or administrative investigations. The results may lead to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, or administrative actions against individual(s), contractors, companies, or their staff.

Investigations are initiated based on complaints we receive from GPO employees and contractors and, in some cases, from the general public. We also may open investigations based on our own proactive analysis, and/or information received from the agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, other agencies, or Congress.

9. What is the difference between an investigation and an audit or inspection?
Generally, an investigation is conducted to resolve specific allegations, complaints, or information concerning possible violations of law, regulation, or policy. In contrast, an OIG audit or inspection is conducted to examine organizational program performance or financial management matters, typically of a systemic nature. Employees should be aware that media reports sometimes characterize OIG activity as an investigation, when the activity is in fact an audit or inspection.

10. Can audits/inspections turn into investigations, or investigations turn into audits/inspections?
Auditors and inspectors are required to design audits/inspections to obtain reasonable assurances about compliance with laws and regulations. While conducting an audit/inspection, the auditor/inspector may become aware of potential criminal or serious administrative violations. This information may be referred for a possible investigation.

Conversely, while performing an investigation, the investigator may identify weaknesses in procedures or controls. This information may be referred for a possible audit or inspection.

11. What is an employee’s obligation during an OIG investigation, audit, or inspection?
GPO Directive 1215.1A states that “[a]ll employees are responsible for…[c]ooperating fully with OIG investigative and/or audit personnel in investigations, audits, or reviews.  Failure to fully cooperate may result in adverse personnel actions up to and including removal from GPO employment.”

Further, Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act explicitly states that the Inspector General has the right to “timely access” to all documents held by the agency or available to the agency”. 

12. What does the OIG investigate?
The OIG investigates a variety of matters, including allegations of fraud involving GPO contracts; improprieties in the administration of GPO programs and operations; allegations of employee misconduct; and other issues with a nexus to GPO received through OIG’s Hotline. The OIG also investigates alleged reprisals against whistleblowers within the agency.

13. What types of allegations should be reported to the OIG Hotline?

GPO employees, contractors and the public should report to the OIG any concerns about the operation of GPO’s programs and/or suspected wrongdoing, including:

  • Contract fraud and collusion;
  • Bribery and acceptance of gratuities;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Misuse or embezzlement of funds;
  • Serious GPO employee misconduct (misuse of official position, etc.); and
  • Other illegal or unethical activities.

To file a complaint, contact the OIG Hotline.

Certain matters may be better resolved through other channels, instead of the GPO OIG Hotline. The following matters are NOT generally investigated by the GPO OIG:

  • 911 emergencies
  • Personnel matters involving requests for individual relief
  • Employment-related grievances and complaints against management officials related to day-to-day management decisions
  • Complaints of EEO discrimination
  • Minor incidents of time and attendance abuse
  • Minor incidents of theft of government resources
  • Minor incidents involving misuse of government vehicles
  • GPO job opportunities
  • Obtaining GPO records
  • Child and spousal support matters
  • Employee benefit and compensation matters
  • Issues handled by other government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, Office of Personnel Management, or Department of Justice.

14. What information should I include if I file a Hotline complaint?
Your complaint should be as specific as possible, and should include the following:

  • Relevant name(s) of all parties involved, including witnesses and other contacts.
  • Dates and times of the events or issues that you are identifying.
  • The location of the issue or the area that it impacts.
  • Name of the contractor involved, contract number, and contract award date.
  • Any additional pertinent information you have concerning the issue.
  • Any and all efforts to address the allegation, to include reporting or discussing with supervisors or other agency officials prior to reporting to the OIG.

Please DO NOT include hyperlinks when filing complaints as these hyperlinks will not be accessed when evaluating the complaint.

Also, please DO NOT take any investigative steps (talking to witnesses, etc.) after you refer the matter to the Hotline because you may inadvertently damage the investigation and possibly taint evidence. Once something is reported to the OIG, any other actions taken to address the allegation may affect OIG efforts and should be reported to the OIG. 

Due to the nature of investigations and the significant privacy interests involved, we do not provide “status” updates to individuals who submit complaints.

15. What does the OIG do with the information it receives through the Hotline?
An OIG special agent reviews the allegation(s) to determine if OIG investigative attention is warranted. Some of the things we consider when evaluating complaints are:

  • Whether the allegation is credible (for example, contains reasonably detailed information).
  • Whether the conduct described would constitute a violation of law or policy.
  • Indications that the matter may significantly affect public health and safety.
  • The nature and seriousness of the alleged activity.
  • The effect of the alleged illegal or improper activity on GPO programs and operations.

These guidelines are intended to ensure the effective utilization of the OIG’s available resources.

If the complaint has potential merit but does not satisfy the criteria above or is not within the OIG’s jurisdiction, the matter may also be referred to agency management or to another law enforcement agency. In addition, allegations that are not investigated immediately may be retained for use as the basis for future audits or inspections.

If the OIG determines that no follow-up will be done regarding a Hotline complaint, the OIG generally does not inform the Hotline complainant.

16. Who conducts OIG investigations?

The OIG is staffed with trained, credentialed, and sworn special agents (criminal investigators who are federal law enforcement officers).  We operate under the statutory authority granted to the Inspector General in 44 U.S.C. § 3903.

17. Can an employee discuss an OIG investigation with non-OIG personnel?
If the OIG contacts a GPO employee concerning an investigation, that employee may inform his/her management of that contact.  It is inappropriate, however, for the employee to discuss the subject matter of the OIG’s contact with anyone else (other than his/her attorney), including his/her managers and other employees. If an employee is interviewed by OIG personnel or receives an OIG request for information, it is inappropriate for the employee to discuss the nature or content of the interview or request with anyone (other than his/her attorney), including managers, other employees, other witnesses, or any party that is potentially involved in the investigation. Similarly, it is not appropriate for management to question such employees about OIG interviews or requests, including specific questions asked or the content of interviews. Such actions, by employees or their management, could compromise the investigation.

Management has a greater responsibility to avoid any action that could hinder employee cooperation with an OIG investigation. In order to protect witness confidentiality, preserve the integrity of the OIG’s investigation, and other reasons (such as fairness and privacy considerations), the OIG commonly requests that employees not discuss OIG interviews with their coworkers, subordinates, or supervisors. Thus, an employee’s obligation to cooperate with the OIG’s investigation extends beyond the time during which the employee is interviewed.

18. What happens when an investigation is complete?
Generally, when an investigation is complete, the OIG will produce a report detailing its investigative findings. The report will be reviewed within the OIG to ensure that it is fact-based, objective, and clear. It will then be provided to appropriate party, including management, so that recipients of the report may consider any appropriate corrective actions based on the results of the OIG’s investigation.

19. Will my identity remain confidential if I cooperate with an OIG investigation?
The OIG will respect the confidentiality of agency employees as provided by law. Section 7 of the Inspector General Act states that “[t]he Inspector General shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation.”

During the course of some investigations, it may be unavoidable that the identities of individuals involved will become known. However, the OIG strives to protect the confidentiality of agency employees who provide our office with information.

In addition, employees should be aware that reprisal against any employee for cooperating with the OIG is forbidden by the Inspector General Act. Further, the OIG takes whistleblower protection very seriously and, along with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, investigates alleged reprisals against employees for making protected disclosures to the OIG.

Also, it is possible to submit complaints to the OIG via the Hotline and remain anonymous.