11 Apr 23

How to Best Respond When an OIG Agent Wants to Talk

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Last Updated on: 6th August 2023, 02:16 am

What You Need to Know About an OIG Investigation and How to Respond: A Complete Guide

If you receive a request from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for a meeting, your initial reaction will likely be panic. But don’t worry, take a deep breath and agree to meet with the officer at a later time. However, before you do that, you should consult with an experienced OIG investigation attorney who can guide you through the process.

The OIG was established by the Inspector General Act of 1978 as an independent agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with several functions. First, it conducts independent investigations of DHS programs and operations. Second, it aims to promote efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the administration of these programs. Third, it focuses on identifying and counteracting departmental fraud, abuse and waste. Finally, it provides ongoing counsel to Congress and the DHS Secretary regarding program deficiencies that require corrective measures.

OIG investigators are also known as special agents who conduct criminal investigations independently across the country if necessary. These agents have law enforcement powers granted by no less than the U.S. Attorney General (AG), which include carrying firearms and obtaining arrest or search warrants. Under certain conditions, they can arrest without a warrant.

If an OIG special agent contacts you for questioning about criminal, civil or administrative issues relevant to your work with DHS or other affiliated areas–for instance in federal reserve system offices–you must not face this alone, instead after speaking with legal counsel proceed thereafter.

While avoiding meetings may make you seem suspicious, your legal counsel may suggest that it’s best strategy is first consulting with them before engaging any further action in response to contact made by an Agent in order assess how – if any – one ought assist.

OIG agents are typically trained professionals who know how to extract information from people whether they want to share that information or not; hence, it is best to avoid trying to outsmart them during interviews. Be mindful that whatever you divulge (or do not) could result in your successful exoneration or criminal prosecution, making it essential that your legal representative be present at all times during inquiries.

However, the OIG isn’t always investigating you specifically – they may require information about a crime involving others and may request information from someone unaffected but knowledgeable of the given crime’s circumstances. Hence, whatever knowledge you might have may be worthwhile sharing though knowing the considerations of your legal team is crucial should this occur. You must avoid publishing about these proceedings on social media or with fellow employees while investigations transpire.

Finally, when approached by an OIG special agent, there is one crucial thing to remember: Never lie. Any false statement made to law enforcement authorities places oneself at significant risk and potentially incriminates oneself. Demurring against answering questions is less dangerous than offering inaccurate answers since doing so violates 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 wherein making false statements can lead to as much as five years imprisonment.

Investigations by the OIG

The Office of Inspector General investigates allegations regarding violations of policies, federal laws and regulations as well as individual complaints. Special agents that are highly trained and well-credentialed investigators handle these investigations who are also recognized as federal law enforcement officers.

The time needed for OIG investigations culminations depends on the case under scrutiny’s particulars; however, after conducting due diligence on an investigation within a year typically leads to concluding final reports that follow initiation. Additionally, findings in such investigations serve as grounds for Department administrative action and possible criminal charges actioned via DOJ litigation.

Special Considerations

As an employee within DHS etc., full cooperation during these proceedings ranks paramount since timeline efficiency influences subsequent outcomes considerably.

The Inspector General Act requires both submission of any relevant material available aligned with forthright responses requested during interviews by agents. Not cooperating with investigators indicate a lack of interest in resolving the issue, that there could be guilty parties or compliance issues management considers need investigation exploration.

In Closing

If you learn you have been summoned for an interview by an OIG special agent (or any law enforcement personnel), do not hesitate to contact a qualified attorney experienced in these types of investigations before making any actions taken further.
Whether innocent or not, legal counsel is essential for assisting with the process as well as to ensure one’s legal rights protected.