GAO Report Finds Failure of Oversight by NASA IG

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Friday, January 9, 2009


(Washington, DC) -Today, the Government Accountability Office released a report, "Inspectors General: Actions Needed to Improve Audit Coverage of NASA," which found that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) under Robert "Moose" Cobb returned only 36 cents for every dollar in its budget. Cobb's role as the Inspector General is to reduce waste and save the agency money. In a ranking of 30 agency OIG offices, Cobb's office ranked 27th in recommended savings for every dollar spent.

The report was requested by: Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology; Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight during the 110th Congress; and Senator Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee. The request came after a joint House/Senate hearing on questionable management practices by Cobb. An investigation by a committee of other inspectors general had determined that Cobb verbally abused his employees and lacked the appearance of independence from his agency. Both Chairman Gordon and Miller called for Cobb's removal at that time.

"This inspector general was not qualified when he took the job," said Chairman Gordon. "The GAO's report only confirms my view that Mr. Cobb has failed as an Inspector General. Our hearing demonstrated his inability to run the Inspector General's office effectively. We now can see from the GAO's report that Mr. Cobb has failed to execute one of an IG's prime responsibilities - reviewing the accountability and efficiency of NASA operations. NASA spends billions of dollars with private contractors and how much money Cobb left on the table due to his failures to manage his office is hard to imagine. The country can't afford Mr. Cobb."

GAO determined that the NASA IG had failed to "address the economy and efficiency of NASA's programs and operations with measurable monetary accomplishments" in its audit reports. Its low ranking could be partially attributed "to strategic and annual audit plans that lack goals and objectives to provide assurance that the economy and efficiency of NASA's programs will be addressed." Instead of aggressive audit planning, the NASA OIG management is "reactive", often acting simply as a "clearinghouse for allegations received by the OIG and provid[ing] auditors with assignments to address limited scope procurement issues and areas that involve violations of NASA regulations," GAO said.

Both Chairmen Gordon and Miller once again called for Cobb's removal. "I am hopeful that one of the first actions at NASA taken by the Obama administration is to remove Mr. Cobb," Chairman Miller said. "The NASA IG's office has been in shambles since he arrived, and it needs to be rebuilt."

GAO determined that the staff attrition rate at the NASA OIG had increased from 12.4 percent in 2003 to 19.9 percent in 2007, including the loss of 42 of 78 auditors and 9 of 10 management auditors. "Many of them left not only because of Mr. Cobb's management style, but because the inspector general didn't seem to understand the role of an auditor," Chairman Miller said. "Waste, fraud and abuse can have a field day when an agency has a weak IG; NASA and the Federal government can do better than this."

For more information, please see the Committee's website.

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