Is the Air Force Inspection System Effective? GAO Was Denied Access to Pertinent Records

FGMSD-78-42: Published: Jun 29, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 1982.

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GAO was unable to complete an evaluation of the adequacy and effectiveness of the Air Force Inspector General's operations because the Department of the Air Force denied it access to all Inspector General reports and essential supporting documents. Historically, the Department of Defense has held that Inspector General reports shall not be furnished to GAO except upon approval of the Secretary of the military department concerned. In 1977, the acting Undersecretary of the Air Force informed GAO that its request for access to certain reports and files was denied because the reports contained conclusions and recommendations derived from inquiries conducted under the concept of confidentiality.

As an alternative to providing access to reports and files, the Inspector General provided statements of fact; all opinions, conclusions, and recommendations were screened out by the Inspector General's staff. It can be argued that some information in the Inspector General system should retain its confidentiality, but this rationale is also used to exclude GAO from other areas of concern such as the evaluation of the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of weapons systems, information systems, and supply and inventory systems. The Air Force's denial of access hampers GAO's ability to provide the Congress with independent consideration of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Inspector General's activities. This denial may result in a waste of money because of similar reviews. Since GAO has unrestricted access to Air Force audit reports, Inspector General reports and files resulting from inspections in these areas should not be privileged information.

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