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The Champion

September-October 2018 , Page 46 

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The Basics of an Office of Inspector General Investigation — Taking It Seriously

By Sara Kropf and Daniel Portnov

On first glance, investigations by a federal agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) may seem like no big deal. An inspector general has no criminal authority, so he cannot arrest counsel’s client or charge her with a crime. The most the OIG can do within the agency is refer a person for disciplinary action.

Lawyers, however, should not be complacent simply because an OIG lacks criminal authority. OIG investigations can derail careers and lead to criminal investigations, not to mention public censure. This article is an OIG investigations primer for lawyers. It will describe an OIG’s statutory authority as well as offer practice tips that can be helpful when representing someone in an OIG investigation.

What Is an OIG?

In 1978, Congress passed the Inspector General Act, which created independent OIGs within each federal agency. The primary purposes of the OIGs are to (1) “conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations” of the agency, and (2) “to

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