Monday, March 1, 2010

About those Inspector General reports…

The OIG reports on our US missions overseas often make quite interesting reading. I look at these reports kind of like imperfect report cards for our consulates and embassies overseas; but they're the only ones the public get to read on mission performance.  There are a couple of things that I think might improve these reports – one is to revert to the old practice of including the names of the members of the inspection team in the publicly available reports. Well, maybe they are included in the original reports, but are stripped from the publicly posted version. I can't think of any good reason why the names of the members of the inspection teams should be redacted from the publicly available copies, can you?

It would be nice to know who are inspecting whom. After all, even the OIG should not be exempt from public scrutiny.  There are already allegations of its handling of grievances related to HR; that the Department’s Inspector General “seems to regularly turn the complaint back to the office against which the grievance was filed (see Patricia Kushlis' blog post)." My post last week on Brussels got a come back from somebody who says that the OIG is just out to protect the big house.

The last thing you want to happen is for the Inspector General's Office to be perceived as ineffective or just protecting the DOS.  The State Department should also hurry up and fill the slot for its Inspector General. The former Inspector General, "Cookie" Krongard appointed in 2005 resigned from office on January 2008 and has yet to be replaced. Retired FSO and former Ambassador Harold W. Geisel has been the Deputy IG since June 2008.      

The second item on my wish list is more tricky.  The OIG reports often have a section on executive overview or executive direction that talks about front office leadership. Sometimes this section can be a bit muddled talking about excellence or success in policy engagement/objectives but not so much about the nitty-gritty part of leading and managing the mission. Since most missions have the ambassadors handling external affairs and the DCM handling the internal business of the mission, I thought the reports ought to follow the same line of discussion. How effective is Embassy “Z” in fulfilling its mission? What is the quality of its mission leadership?    

Technically, a mission can still achieve its foreign policy objectives even if its people are overworked, have low morale and are counting the days when they leave post and survive their bosses. They are professionals after all; they have to do their jobs.  The question is --  when policy objectives are achieved, how much does it matter or who really cares if the parts did not work as well as they could have? 

There are senior bureaucrats who value individual brilliance on policy making/achievement of policy objectives over leadership and management. I admire individual brilliance, myself, but what good is that if all the folks working for you are miserable? 

I almost wish the OIG has a scorecard similar to a grade point chart where all the parts of the mission get a rating from F to A+; and where the front office gets a split rating for achieving its policy objectives and for the quality of its leadership and management of the mission.  Achievement of foreign policy goals deal with the immediate need of here and now, and that is important and necessary.  But the work of strengthening the institution is the work of generations and no less important.  Continuing to ignore the latter will have repercussions for decades to come.


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