International Broadcasting Bureau – Information War: Lost and Dead – A New Level of Dysfunctional and Defunct – Part One
By The Federalist
Recent revelations by BBG Watch on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, “Alleged violations of IRS rules by IBB officials may cost taxpayers, U.S. agency millions,” indicate possible violations of law, rule and regulation in the matter of contractor hirings by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Specifically, instead of adhering to guidelines and/or limitations on the hiring and use of contractors (normally in government parlance, to fill a temporary need), the agency is alleged to be using contractors as full-time employees, exceeding limitations on the number of contractors and also allegedly violating the procedures regarding the re-hiring of retired annuitants (retired agency Federal employees, including those who previously encumbered some senior agency positions).
We are most interested in what a detailed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report has to say about these issues, which may be released in 6 or 8 weeks. Typically, the agency is allowed a period to respond to the findings in an OIG report; in this case perhaps attempting to limit damage or deny wrongdoing.
As a practical matter, whatever comes out in the published Executive Summary and body of the OIG report needs further investigation: either by the Congress or if crossing a legal threshold, criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
These kinds of alleged improprieties don’t come about accidentally. The agency has an Office of Contracts and it also has an Office of the General Counsel (the agency’s lawyers). If there is widespread abuse of hiring practices related to the use of contractors, these offices are where an investigation should start, to determine who approved contractor hires and agency contracting practices.
We have watched this agency for a long time. We examine the behavior of its senior officials carefully. Certain patterns come into focus:
Acting By Committee: Code of Silence
In possible systemic and widespread violations of law, rule and regulation, it is likely that more than one senior official might be involved. As a practical matter, it would be too risky for one bureaucrat to stick his neck out. What follows is the construction of a web possibly involving several officials or departments, for example: the Office of Contracts, the General Counsel’s office, senior officials of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the Voice of America (VOA) and perhaps others.
Is it possible that certain individuals could have been misinformed as to the agency’s obligations under law or the limitations placed on contractor hires?
However, with this agency it is more likely that the agency would try to manipulate the language of law, rule or regulation in order to violate the spirit and letter, intent and practice of what guidance is contained in regulatory directives.
If certain practices become a matter of concern outside the circle of officials responsible for an action, it is not uncommon for information requests to be formally submitted to the agency. These requests are commonly made through procedures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) routed through the agency’s General Counsel’s (GC) office.
This agency grudgingly gives up information on its internal practices. The tactic the agency follows is often to deny information or redact submissions to the point that they say nothing. In turn, this puts the burden on the person or organization making the request to hire legal counsel and take the agency to court. The agency knows full well the attendant costs to legal proceedings. They are often beyond reasonable means for an individual. When the agency goes to court, it spends the American taxpayer’s money. Knowing this, the agency drags issues out on procedural grounds, often losing a decision and then appealing the decision, fully intending if necessary to take an issue all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Even when a decision is rendered against the agency, as in the Hartman case (a class action case that cost American taxpayers $500-MILLION dollars), settlement costs come out of a fund in the Justice Department, not the agency’s budget.
With this agency’s established record of being dysfunctional and defunct, the intended outcome of the agency’s tactics is not to comply with existing law, rule and regulation. It is:
Accountability delayed is accountability denied
How much the improper use of contractors can cost the American taxpayer and/or the individual contractors remains to be seen. However, if there is Internal Revenue Service (IRS) involvement along with the Office of Inspector General, things are not looking rosy.
When All Else Fails: Threats, Intimidation and Public Character Assassination
This agency is toxic. It has earned a reputation for being one of the worst places to work in the Federal Government. It has consistently ranked at/or near the bottom of mid-sized Federal agencies in the annual Federal employee workplace satisfaction survey.
It is a hostile work environment – one in which fear plays a prominent role: fear of retaliation for speaking out, fear of retribution, fear of losing your job over some concocted deficiency in one’s work performance.
That’s on the employee level.
It gets worse higher up the organization.
The latest BBG Watch article speaks at length about what was done to Ambassador Victor Ashe while a presidential appointee to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG): an orchestrated attempt at personal and professional character assassination by individuals close to or inside the IBB.
This is not a rare occurrence. Similar attacks have been made and directed at other BBG members or senior staff, past and present. Should a serious investigation of the IBB take place and these individuals called to testify under oath, it could be very bad for the agency. Some of these former officials subjected to these threats have maintained meticulous records of how they were attacked.
What sets the attack against Ashe apart from the others (and they are all bad) is the degree of intensity and depravity. In our view, this reveals two possible indicators: (a) that Ambassador Ashe was getting close to some serious wrongdoing and (b) the people responsible for the attacks (most likely linked to the IBB) have something to hide.
The OIG report may be a revelation of part – perhaps not all – of what is being hidden from public view.
We don’t call the IBB the “rogue bureaucracy” for nothing. The mindset and group dynamics of the IBB is more like that of an organization intimidating people in some backroom or alleyway.
These people are not the least bit concerned with the agency’s mission, the VOA Charter or “supporting freedom and democracy.” They are contemptible of all three.
Thus, the question is what is the IBB bureaucracy protecting?
One possible and perhaps likely answer is this:
The Failed “Strategic plan” And Everything That Goes With It
More in Part Two.