Like her predecessor, acting Principal Deputy Inspector General Dara Corrigan is making some major personnel changes within healthcare's chief enforcement agency. But there is a sense of deja vu about some of her choices.
Three of the five appointments Corrigan announced to her staff on March 4 are longtime inspector general career professionals who had been demoted or reassigned by her predecessor, HHS Inspector General Janet Rehnquist. Rehnquist resigned last year after several federal reports criticized her judgment, performance and behavior while on the job. Roughly 20 high-ranking inspector general staffers retired, resigned or were reassigned under her watch, according to a General Accounting Office report released in June 2003 (June 23, 2003, p. 17).
"A tremendous amount of consideration went into each and every one of these decisions," Corrigan told her staff. "My goal was to match individual talents with the various vacancies so that we could have an outstanding and stable organization into the future. I trust that we can all put the past behind us and focus on making our work the gold standard for other offices into the future."
The three inspector general veterans combined have logged more than 60 years of experience with the office.
George Grob, who will rejoin the Office of Evaluations and Investigations as assistant inspector general, previously headed the Office of Management and Policy and served in the Commerce Department's Office of Inspector General.
Dennis Duquette, who was transferred to the Office of Audit Services during Rehnquist's administration, will return to his former position as deputy inspector general of management and policy. In that role, he will oversee the new Medicare prescription drug program. He had served as acting principal deputy inspector general after Rehnquist resigned and before Corrigan was appointed to head the office.
In recognition of his service, Duquette last week received the prestigious Distinguished Presidential Rank Award for 2003, which the president confers annually on less than 1% of all career federal Senior Executive Service members "who have sustained extraordinary achievement through their leadership, integrity, industry and relentless commitment to public service."
Corrigan also appointed Joseph Vengrin as deputy inspector general for the Office of Audit Services, where he previously served as assistant inspector general.
She promoted Michael Little to the position of deputy inspector general for the Office of Investigations, where he replaces Vicki Shepherd, who resigned last year in the wake of the same scandal that led to Rehnquist's exit. Little has been special agent in charge of the inspector general's Philadelphia Office of Investigations since 1994. That office has logged 250 criminal convictions and recovered $850 million.
Tony Campbell, who had served in the interim as the acting deputy inspector general for investigations, returns to his former role as assistant inspector general for investigations, the No. 2 slot. Corrigan also named Cheryl Oros as deputy inspector general for evaluations and inspections. Oros is currently the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service's Office of Planning and Accountability. She spent 10 years at the GAO evaluating federal healthcare programs.
Oros and Little must complete the Senior Executive Service certification process before their appointments become official.
Corrigan, while not occupying the position of inspector general on a permanent basis, nonetheless is authorized to make personnel changes within the agency. While rumors continue to circulate about a successor to Rehnquist, none has been announced.
"(Corrigan) is very well-respected among the office's lawyers and within other government enforcement agencies," said Patricia Meador of the Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman law firm in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "Her appointment to the position would probably be well-received."
Finally, Kimberly Brandt, the inspector general's former director of external affairs and a close adviser to Rehnquist, was recently named to Corrigan's former position as acting director of program integrity for the CMS.