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Who watches the watchdogs?

With any system of management, there is always a concern with who is supervising the supervisor. You can create the "fairest" system in the world to manage your employees, but if those responsible for the overall operation of the system are corrupt, then it is all for naught.

Many of the problems that have come to light from the Veterans Affairs hospital scheduling scandal appear to stem from poor upper level management. Those responsible for the proper operation of the hospitals appear to have made very poor decisions regarding care and medical treatment of veterans.

When a department is wracked with management problems, it is essential that those most responsible for sorting out what has gone wrong and investigating the problems are truly independent from those whom they are investigating.

The latest casualty of the scheduling scandal appears to have failed to demonstrate the requisite independence. The Inspector General for the VA has retired, in part due to criticism for his lack of aggressively investigating the issues and adequately protecting whistleblowers.

In this case, whistleblowers provided much of the evidence that caused the scandal to come to light. Ideally, an Office of Inspector General should, as part of their job, uncover such information and work with whistleblowers to determine the truth.

Instead, he was described by one critic as, "part of the VA’s toxic culture of intimidation and retaliation."

He was accused of being too "cozy" with the management he was responsible for investigating. In the end, it always comes down to leadership. No matter the position, if managers and supervisors lack the ability to lead and perform their jobs, problems will ensue.

And this is why real leadership demands judgment and discretion. And all departments must have truly independent Inspector Generals.

Source: washingtonpost.com, "VA’s embattled watchdog to step down," Lisa Rein, June 30, 2015

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