OCM Challenges Inspector General Refusal to Release Records

Written on:July 2, 2013
 
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PRESS RELEASE

Organization for Competitive Markets
P.O. Box 6486
Lincoln, NE 68506
www.competitivemarkets.com

Contact:
Mike Callicrate, OCM President
785-332-8128
callicrate@competitivemarkets.com

July 2, 2013

Group Appeals OIG’s Decision to Withhold Records Relating to Questionable Checkoff Audit Report

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed an administrative appeal today challenging the USDA Inspector General’s (OIG) refusal to release more than 3,000 pages of information relating to a questionable audit report.

Despite an independent audit that discovered substantial violations of the beef checkoff program—which supervised by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—a recently released OIG report of those same operations did not discover such violations. To uncover the truth behind these irreconcilably conflicting conclusions, OCM filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to demand disclosure of the audit records and provide the kind of transparency that OIG has stated is critical to the integrity of the checkoff program.

OIG has now claimed, however, that it intends to withhold from public disclosure more than 3,000 pages of report drafts (the final report was a mere 17 pages long). OCM today has filed an administrative appeal, challenging the OIG refusal to disclose these materials. The appeal also alleges that OIG has not complied with FOIA’s statutory deadlines and improperly transferred records to AMS—the very agency being audited—for that agency to make disclosure determinations.

“The Inspector General stresses the need for transparency in the checkoff program, while simultaneously refusing to release thousands of pages of audit records,” said Mike Callicrate, OCM president. “Withholding so many records is like asking producers to monitor the government through a peephole; FOIA demands, however, that the doors of the checkoff program be thrown wide open, and OCM is determined to see that they are.”

Under FOIA, OIG has 20 working days to make a determination on OCM’s appeal.
FOIA Appeal, OIG FOIA Log No. 13-00077

The Organization for Competitive Markets is a nonprofit organization that promotes transparent, fair, and truly competitive agricultural and food markets.

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OCM is a nonprofit working to restore open, fair and competitive markets for farmers and ranchers


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