OIG Project Ideas Stay Informed - New OIG Reports Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

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 (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.), 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. Although the Inspector General is appointed by and reports to the GPO Director, Congress established authority for the OIG to act independently from the agency to better enable the effectiveness of its oversight responsibilities. 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. See An Introduction to Whistleblowers and Their Rights and Protections.
  • 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?
Government auditing provides an independent and objective review of agency programs. The OIG conducts financial audits mandated by legislation, as well as discretionary, risk-based performance audits of GPO programs and operations to ensure activities are in compliance with applicable policies, laws, and regulations.

OIG performs audits in accordance with the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards(GAGAS), known as the “Yellow Book,” issued by the Comptroller General of the United States.

The OIG issues audit reports for each completed audit to communicate the results and summary of the views of responsible officials and, if applicable, the nature of any confidential or sensitive information omitted. 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.

The OIG issues inspection reports for each completed inspection to communicate the results and summary of the views of responsible officials and, if applicable, the nature of any confidential or sensitive information omitted. Inspection reports 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 is a systematic process of searching for, gathering, analyzing, and evaluating information or evidence to uncover facts and reach conclusions.

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, contractors, and, in some cases, from the general public. We also may open investigations based on our proactive analysis, and/or information received from the agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, other agencies, or Congress.

Possible results of OIG investigations include:

  • Criminal Prosecution: If the OIG uncovers evidence of criminal activity, the case may be referred to law enforcement authorities for prosecution. This could lead to criminal charges, arrests, and legal proceedings.
  • Administrative Actions: GPO may use the results of an OIG investigation for administrative action, including disciplinary measures such as suspension, termination, or other personnel actions, against individuals found to have violated rules or policies.
  • Civil or Administrative Penalties: In cases where there are violations of civil or administrative laws, the OIG may recommend fines, penalties, or sanctions against individuals or entities involved.
  • Corrective Actions and Recommendations: OIG investigations often result in recommendations for corrective actions to address identified issues. These recommendations may include changes to GPO policies, procedures, or internal controls to prevent similar problems in the future.
  • Recovery of Funds: When an OIG investigation reveals instances of financial misconduct, including misappropriation or improper spending of funds, the OIG may take various actions to assist in the recovery of those funds.
  • Audit and Monitoring: OIG investigations may lead to ongoing audits or monitoring to ensure that corrective actions are implemented and that the organization remains in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Referrals to Other Agencies: In some cases, the OIG may refer aspects of the investigation to other government agencies or regulatory bodies with jurisdiction over specific issues.
  • Public Reporting: OIG reports provide details of the investigation's findings and recommendations. In some circumstances, summaries of these reports or the reports themselves may be made public to promote transparency and accountability. When disclosing information, OIG adheres to the confidentiality requirements mandated by law. See What Does Confidentiality Mean for You?

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 1215.1B states that “[a]ll employees are responsible for…[c]ooperating with OIG investigative and/or audit personnel in investigations, audits, or reviews; except to the extent that doing so would tend to implicate the employee in a crime. Failure to cooperate may otherwise result in adverse personnel action up to and including removal from GPO employment.”

Further, Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 406(a)) explicitly states that the Inspector General has the right to timely access to all records 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
  • 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 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, including 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, the OIG does not provide status updates to individuals who submit complaints.

15. How Do I Disclose Classified Information or information prohibited from release by law?

You can make a protected disclosure to the OIG of classified information or information otherwise prohibited by law from release, but the information may not be transmitted using the GPO OIG’s unclassified hotline or other unclassified method. For more information on how to properly provide classified information or information otherwise prohibited by law from release, please contact the GPO OIG Hotline and request guidance from the Assistant Inspector General of Investigations. (You may also contact the Assistant Inspector General of Investigations for guidance on disclosing similar information to (1) the Office of Special Counsel, (2) Congress, or (3) another GPO employee designated to receive such disclosures.)

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. 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. A summary of the report or the report with appropriate redactions to preserve confidentiality will then be provided to the appropriate party, including management, so that recipients of the report may consider any appropriate actions based on the results of the OIG’s investigation.

18. Can an employee discuss an OIG interview with non-OIG personnel?
If the OIG contacts a GPO employee for an interview, the employee may inform his/her management. To protect witness confidentiality, preserve the integrity of the OIG’s investigation, and preserve fairness and privacy considerations, the OIG commonly requests that employees not discuss OIG interviews with their coworkers, subordinates, or supervisors.

Management officials are responsible for ensuring that their subordinates cooperate fully with the OIG and that officials themselves avoid any action that could hinder employee cooperation. Management officials should not question employees (either directly or through any other individual) about OIG interviews, including details of questions asked, answers given, or the content of the interviews.

19. Will my identity remain confidential if I cooperate with an OIG investigation?
In accordance with the GPO Inspector General Act of 1988 (codified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 3901­–3903), the Inspector General Act of 1978 (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.), as amended, and GPO Office of Inspector General (OIG) policy, the GPO IG attempts to protect the confidentiality of a person who makes an allegation or provides information regarding wrongdoing unless the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation or disclosure is otherwise required by law. See What Does Confidentiality Mean For You?


Complaints also may be submitted anonymously via the OIG Hotline.