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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie

    Homeland Security watchdog accused of whitewashing report

    Homeland Security watchdog accused of whitewashing report

    Brendan Bordelon

    The man in charge of policing waste, fraud and abuse at the federal government’s third-largest department has been accused of suppressing a politically sensitive report, violating anti-nepotism laws and misusing agency resources, according to a letter from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

    Charles Edwards, deputy inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security and de facto head of the office, was ordered by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson to provide sixteen separate document sets related to the allegations by July 19.

    “This is supposed to be the most transparent administration in history, but we’re seeing a real pattern of this White House and their secretaries applying pressure to inspectors general to whitewash reports,” Johnson said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

    The letter claims Edwards intentionally changed and withheld information from both the public and internal reports on the solicitation of prostitutes by U.S. Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia last year.

    Johnson believes the suppression may have been done at the direction of political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security, raising doubts about the office’s independence from the agency it’s tasked with investigating.

    Numerous other allegations came from over a dozen current or former employees and vary widely. Whistle-blowers claim that Edwards illegally employed his wife as an auditor within his office, obtaining improper benefits for her in the process.

    In one instance, Edwards reportedly pressured subordinates to approve his wife’s seven-month teleworking stint in India and provided a government-issued Blackberry cellphone for her personal use while abroad.

    He also stands accused of misusing federal funds by traveling regularly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida under the guise of conducting routine inspections of a local inspector general’s office. In reality, whistle-blowers allege that Edwards was attending Ph. D classes at Nova Southeastern University, billing airline tickets, car rentals and hotel fees to the federal government.

    There have also been allegations that Edwards used government-issued vehicles to run personal errands and retaliated against employees who questioned his activities by placing them on administrative leave.

    The government accountability group Cause of Action informed TheDC News Foundation that they have been investigating the inspector general for over a year.

    “Cause of Action has been made aware, through DHS insiders, that Edwards potentially destroyed complaints filed by his own employees,” said Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director. “If this allegation proves to be true, Edwards could be facing time in prison.”

    The Department of Homeland Security has been without a Senate-confirmed inspector general since February 2011. Charles Edwards assumed leadership of the office as acting inspector general at that time, but was forced by the Federal Vacancies Act to return to his position as Deputy inspector general in January of this year.

    The Obama administration nominated Roslyn Mazer to be inspector general in July 2011, but she withdrew her nomination in June 2012 following a contentious confirmation hearing. The administration has yet to name a replacement nominee.

    “This administration has a history of not filling inspector general positions,” Johnson said, pointing to vacancies at the Departments of State, Interior, Labor and Defense. “Those departments represent more than 50 percent of federal discretionary spending, and they’re all without a full-time inspector general.”

    Johnson emphasized that his committee was committed to discovering the truth behind the explosive allegations. “The fact that the chairwoman [Sen. McCaskill] joined in our request for information shows how seriously we’re taking this,” he said.

    “We’re looking forward to his prompt response to our request for information,” the senator concluded.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie
    Inspector general of Homeland Security eyed in fund mismanagement and nepotism

    • By GEOFF EARLE Bureau Chief
    • Last Updated: 5:48 AM, July 22, 2013
    • Posted: 2:44 AM, July 22, 2013

    WASHINGTON — The acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security flouted nepotism rules by employing his wife, and took multiple jaunts, at taxpayers’ expense, to Florida, according to documents obtained by The Post.

    The documents show at least four trips that Charles Edwards — the acting inspector general assigned to root out fraud in the agency’s $40 billion budget — took from DC to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where he was earning a computer and information-sciences degree at Nova Southeastern University, in 2011 and 2012.

    Travel receipts submitted by Edwards list the university’s name next to the rate charged by the hotel, apparently corroborating claims by whistle-blowers who told two lawmakers and a watchdog group that the acting IG was using so-called government “site visits” for his own personal advancement — since, they allege, there was no reason for him to make an official visit to Fort Lauderdale.

    Getty Images
    Charles Edwards
    “If those allegations turn out to be true, then this deputy inspector general is violating his role as a public servant who is being paid on the taxpayer dime,” said Mary Beth Hutchins, of the group Cause of Action, which shared documents it had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request with The Post.
    Receipts for the Fort Lauderdale Marriott list “Nova SE University” on the room-charge receipt. Gas receipts reveal that he filled up near the school, as well.
    Edwards (pictured) also gave bonuses to employees who helped him complete school assignments and write his Ph.D. dissertation, and he retaliated when employees complained about his conduct, according to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who are investigating “misconduct and abuse” in the case.

    Other travel documents show several $1,500 trips to Puerto Rico, where Edwards stayed at the Ritz and at a Marriott resort, and a $954 voucher to Homeland Security for his stay at the Miami Marriott.

    The documents also could point to nepotism, Cause of Action officials said. Edwards employed his wife, Madhuri, as an auditor in his office — in apparent violation of agency anti-nepotism laws — according to Johnson and McCaskill.

    Madhuri was able to get permission to tele-work from India for at least five months, internal documents reveal.

    One document from a supervisor points to discomfort at Edwards’ interference: “Madhuri e-mailed me and said that she hoped that I could accommodate her request to tele-work on Thursdays,” her boss wrote. “I asked her if she would be taking leave . . . Then Charles called!”

    Another e-mail reveals a “Charles Edwards walk-in request” that his wife get a “loaner” BlackBerry in 2010 for her India trip.

    Phone logs and bills totaling hundreds of dollars each month in charges show many of her calls were to her husband — on taxpayers’ dime.

    Edwards denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations “false” and “completely without merit.”

    The IG’s office declined to comment.

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