The following story is one I’ve heard from other government auditors over many years. Senior staff without the knowledge or skill to do audit related work creating a negative environment that results in watered-down audit reports.
When I encourage staff to speak out, the common refrain is, “I can’t afford to lose my job.” – which is understandable.
It is good to see, in the following instance, that some brave staff did stand up, testified before the US Senate, to bring about change in the senior ranks of an important agency.

The United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that Mr. Charles Edwards, the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, jeopardized the independence of that Office. The Committee found, “Mr. Edwards did not understand the importance of independence. [He] communicated frequently with DHS senior officials and considered them personal friends. Mr. Edwards did not obtain independent legal advice. [He] directed reports to be altered or delayed to accommodate senior DHS officials. Mr. Edwards did not recuse himself from some audits and inspections that had a conflict of interest related to his wife’s employment, resulting in those reports being tainted.”
What a damning indictment. Based on this report, Mr. Edwards resigned from his position at the OIG and requested and received a transfer to the Office of Science and Technology at DHS.
It is inconceivable to me that he continues to work at the same agency especially after the Committee found, “…that Mr. Edwards asked and received assistance from an employee who worked on his Ph.D. dissertation.”
In addition, “…the Subcommittee did find that there was a widespread belief that Mr. Edwards engaged in those actions and that belief contributed to an office environment characterized by low morale, fear, and general dissatisfaction with Mr. Edwards’ leadership.”
Here are some of the findings from the Senate Committee report.
Lack of Familiarity with OIG Work

Unlike most IGs, Mr. Edwards does not have experience conducting audits, investigations, or inspections, the three main types of work conducted in an Office of Inspector General. For example, when interviewed by Subcommittee staff, Edwards was unable to articulate guidelines that govern briefing details of an ongoing investigation to DHS. Edwards stated, “I don’t know that offhand here.”
Frequent Communications and Personal Relationships with Senior DHS Officials

Mr. Edwards frequently communicated with both the DHS Chief of Staff and the DHS Acting Counsel. In many of these e-mails, Mr. Edwards offered updates on investigations and audits. Mr. Edwards did not include senior members of his staff on many of these emails and they were not aware of these communications. One senior OIG official called the exclusion of involved staff in these e-mail chains “concerning.”
Edwards socialized with senior DHS officials outside of work over drinks and dinner. 

The Subcommittee obtained e-mails where Mr. Edwards told the DHS Chief of Staff that he truly valued his friendship and that his “support, guidance and friendship has helped me be successful this year”. The Subcommittee also obtained an e-mail to the DHS Acting Counsel where Mr. Edwards wrote “Your friendship, support and advice means so much to me. There are many blessings to be thankful for this year, but one of the best is having a friend like you.”
Lack of Independent Legal Advice

By law, an IG can only obtain legal advice from his own or another IG’s counsel. This restriction recognizes that legal advice from an agency’s General Counsel compromises the independence of the OIG.
The Counsel to the IG stated he was “cut out of some of the major decision-making.” He also informed the Subcommittee that he was not given access to Mr. Edwards’ calendar and his direct reporting relationship with Mr. Edwards ended.
Four former OIG officials told the Subcommittee that Mr. Edwards would go to the DHS Office of General Counsel for advice. The Subcommittee also reviewed an e-mail from Mr. Edwards to the DHS Acting Counsel which appears to contain a request for legal assistance, stating: “I really need some legal help….Please help me for the next four months.”
Improper Alteration or Delay of Reports
There are numerous reports discussed in this section, I would encourage the reader of this blog to read the Committee full report to see what occurred, but here is one part, “OIG officials told the Subcommittee that Mr. Edwards did not consult with his Assistant IG (AIG) for Audits or the Counsel to the IG prior to making this change. According to the Counsel to the IG, this was “entirely inappropriate.” Moreover, the changes were made after the final draft was given to DHS, which was “inappropriate,” and “irregular.”
Tainted Audit Reports
The Subcommittee received allegations that OIG audit reports were tainted due to a conflict of interest presented by the employment of Mr. Edwards’ wife in the Program Accountability and Risk Management office of DHS.
Because of the appearance of a conflict of interest, the OIG had to temporarily remove four audit and two inspection reports from its website and amend them to include a modified independence statement.
Assistance with Pursuit of a Ph.D.
TheSubcommittee determined that Mr. Edwards abused agency resources by asking a staff member to work on his Ph.D. dissertation.
Mr. Edwards’ Acting Chief of Staff provided assistance to Mr. Edwards with his dissertation over a period of at least eight months, from September 2011 to April 2012. During this period, the Acting Chief of Staff said she worked on the dissertation at work and at home, both during and after business hours. This work included research, editing, and proofreading. In total, the Acting Chief of Staff estimated that she spent approximately 20-25 hours assisting Mr. Edwards with his dissertation. The Subcommittee was unable to verify the accuracy of this estimate. The Acting Chief of Staff was allowed to telework while working on Mr. Edwards’ dissertation. Mr. Edwards also appeared to offer to delegate the Acting Chief of Staff’s official duties to other OIG employees to allow her to focus on his dissertation.
Assistance with Employment at Capitol College
The Subcommittee identified at least 15 occasions between September 2011 and March 2012 in which Mr. Edwards asked for or received assistance from a member of the OIG’s technology staff. On one occasion, Mr. Edwards sent the employee a 96 slide PowerPoint presentation and asked her to “do the notes for each slide.” The employee also assisted Mr. Edwards in drafting guidance documents for student assignments and on substantive matters for class tests. This assistance was provided during both official and non-official hours.

Office Environment
During the Subcommittee’s investigation, current and former OIG employees repeatedly reported that Mr. Edwards had created a hostile work environment. One official characterized the office as a “toxic, totally dysfunctional and oppressive” work environment characterized by low morale, paranoia, and fear. Another official described the atmosphere of the OIG as one of “[c]omplete terror,” such that “there were times that [they] couldn’t even get up out of bed, [they were] so emotionally scared, drained.”
Many employees told the Subcommittee they wanted a change in leadership. According to one official, the OIG staff “want to have a legitimate Inspector General in place to get us back on track.” Another called the office “the worst agency” and said that it has been “run into the ground” under Mr. Edwards’ leadership. Reasons include Mr. Edwards’ reluctance to “seek out advice or guidance from anybody with experience” and that the “people … he surrounds himself with … do not have the background or the experience to be useful to him.”
According to one OIG employee, more experienced senior officials refrained from criticizing Mr. Edwards out of fear of repercussions. The Subcommittee was told that “[Mr. Edwards] has a very limited idea of loyalty and people whom he can trust, and if you ever disagree with him, he no longer trusts you.”190 The result, according to multiple OIG officials, has been a steady exodus of agency staff. 191 One OIG official told the Subcommittee that Mr. Edwards’ management style was “my way or the highway, and if you don’t like it, I will either put you on admin[istrative] leave or I’ll make sure that you leave.”
The US Senate Committee’s report was the result of allegations coming from whistle blowers. I hear of similar allegations in other agencies and I always tell staff to think through a strategy that can result in change. I encourage all government auditors to read this report and to see what is possible.