IG That Watchdogs IRS--And Uncovered Targeting of Tea Party--'Shut Down'

By James Beattie | October 7, 2013 | 3:21pm EDT

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(CNSNews.com) -- While the Treasury Department has continued its basic operations since the government "shutdown" last Tuesday--collecting tens of billions in taxes and spending even more--the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which conducts audits and investigations of the IRS, and which uncovered the IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups, has been "shut down."

"As of October 7 at 8:30 am, due to the continued lapse in appropriated federal funding, TIGTA’s normal operations are shut down," says the recorded message at an "emergency notification" phone line that the IG's office set up for its workers. "Employees should’ve already received instructions to not report to work, and to not incur any work related expenses."

“We anticipate full cessation of audits, inspections and evaluations during the shutdown period," says a TIGTA document obtained by CNSNews.com. The document is entitled “Bureau Shutdown Plans During Periods of Lapsed Appropriations, September 2013.”

According to the document, in addition to ceasing audits, investigations and evaluations, TIGTA is also furloughing 61% of its staff.

“When a [funding] lapse occurs, all normal operations will cease and all further efforts will be devoted solely to closing down operations, protecting human life and health, protecting Government property, and performing essential operations for outside agencies whose operations must continue," says the document. "Management will determine the number of employees required to do this work and this work only. These activities are typical of those identified with the ‘excepted’ category.”

Excepted and unexcepted are the new terms, respectively, for essential and non-essential personnel in the federal government.

“All functions will shut down as required by law," says the document. "Upon notification of the shutdown, specific names will be provided based on the role individuals play in the emergency programs, open/active threat cases, and other sensitive investigations TIGTA has ongoing at the time of the shutdown as these issues drive which Special Agent will stay on duty and provide for the needed coverage.”

According to the TIGTA document, the office had 766 employees who were "expected to be on-board before implementation of the [shutdown] plan.” It then says that 297 of those employees will be kept on during the shutdown, with most of those--276--being retained because the jobs they do are deemed “necessary to protect life and property.”

Beyond the 297 TIGTA employees who were allowed to stay on the job, 469 TIGTA were furloughed. That equals 61% of TIGTA personnel.

Some of the excepted personnel listed in the document include the Inspector General, J. Russell George, his Principal Deputy, the Director of Finance and Procurement, and the Contracting Officer.  Examples of furloughed personnel include the Supervisory Attorney, the Assistant Inspector General for Security and Information Technology Services, and the Director of Governance and Security.

The TIGTA "emergency notification" phone line notified furloughed workers that the could continue to make "limited use" of government equipment to check on whether there had been a change in the shutdown itself.

"Limited use of government-issued equipment to check on the status of the shutdown and important related communications is permitted," said the recording. "This notification line will be updated until federal funding is secured and TIGTA’s normal operations are returned.”

A number of recent TIGTA audits have proved embarrassing to the IRS and the administration. These include revealing that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups for heightened scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, discovering that the IRS had sent $46 million in tax refunds to 23,994 illegal aliens claiming to live at one Atlanta address, and that more than 1,000 IRS employees had misused government charge cards.

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