As the White House struggles with ongoing departures of its senior staff, key vacancies throughout the executive branch charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse remain unfilled more than a year after President Donald Trump took office.
The latest example of the importance of those watchdogs came Wednesday with the release of a stinging internal investigation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which found "failed leadership at multiple levels" during the Obama administration that put patients at a major hospital at risk.
The 150-page report painted a grim picture of communications breakdowns, chaos and spending waste at the government's second-largest department. The report found that at least three program offices directly under current VA Secretary David Shulkin's watch knew of "serious, persistent deficiencies" when he was VA undersecretary of health from 2015 to 2016.
The report represented the latest blow to Shulkin, whom Trump promoted to VA secretary last year. Shulkin told government investigators that he did "not recall" ever being notified of problems.
Despite Trump's campaign vows to "drain the swamp," his administration has been slow to hire agency watchdogs, known as inspectors general, tasked with reviewing the way the government conducts its business and spends taxpayers' money.
Of the 73 inspector general offices housed in various government agencies and departments, 14 of them are vacant or lead by temporary appointees, according to the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog group.