Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Inspector General?

A federal inspector general is a public official who is responsible for independently overseeing an agency’s programs and operations.  The Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (IG Act), requires Inspectors General to:

  • Conduct independent and objective audits, investigations, and inspections;
  • Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse;
  • Promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; and
  • Keep agency heads and Congress informed of problems and corrective actions.

As of May 2020, there are 74 federal Inspectors General, each responsible for oversight of one or more agencies.  As specified in the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, approximately half of the federal Inspector Generals are appointed by the President subject to Senate confirmation, and approximately half are appointed by the agency head.

What are FHFA-OIG's responsibilities?

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA or Agency) has unique responsibilities in its dual roles as conservator and supervisor of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (together, the Enterprises) and as supervisor of the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) (collectively, the regulated entities) and the FHLBanks’ fiscal agent, the Office of Finance.  FHFA’s conservatorships of the Enterprises are of unprecedented scope, scale, and complexity.  FHFA’s dual roles continue to present unique challenges.  Consequently, FHFA-OIG has structured its oversight program to effectively examine FHFA’s exercise of its dual responsibilities, which differ significantly from that of the typical federal financial regulator.

We conduct a broad range of audits, evaluations, compliance reviews, administrative inquiries, and other reviews to assess the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of FHFA programs and operations.  In addition, we also perform specific reviews mandated by Congress, such as reviews of FHFA’s privacy and information security programs.  Our reports explain the reasons for our oversight efforts, describe any shortcomings in what we find, and recommend possible corrective actions.  We do not manage Agency programs or implement changes.

We conduct investigations into alleged wrongdoing related to FHFA’s programs and operations committed by its employees, contractors, and others.  We also investigate wrongdoing that hinders FHFA’s ability to supervise its regulated entities.

Investigations may be criminal, civil, or administrative, with findings referred as appropriate to FHFA, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Government Ethics, and/or the White House.

What authority does FHFA-OIG have to conduct its work?

Under the IG Act, FHFA-OIG has:

  • Access to all records and documents available to FHFA;
  • Authority to subpoena records from nonfederal entities; and
  • The ability to exercise law enforcement authority, such as conducting criminal investigations, and executing search and arrest warrants.

How is the FHFA Inspector General appointed?

Pursuant to the IG Act, the Inspector General for FHFA-OIG is appointed by the President of the United States with Senate confirmation.  The same process is followed for Inspectors General for Cabinet-level departments and certain other agencies, as specified by the Act.

The FHFA-OIG Inspector General, and all other federal Inspectors General, are appointed without regard to their political affiliation and based on their integrity and their ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, and investigations.

The FHFA-OIG Inspector General and other Presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed Inspectors General can be removed only by the President, after advance notice to both Houses of Congress.

To whom does the FHFA Inspector General report?

Under the IG Act, the FHFA Inspector General serves under the general supervision of the FHFA Director and has a dual and independent reporting relationship to Congress.

Specifically, the Inspector General must keep the FHFA Director and Congress fully and currently informed about any significant issues and shortcomings in the administration of FHFA’s programs and operations, recommendations to address such issues and shortcomings, and FHFA’s progress in implementing corrective actions.

FHFA-OIG, like every other federal OIG, publishes its reports on its public website and on Oversight.gov.  It also issues a semiannual report to Congress summarizing its activities every six months.

What responsibilities does the Agency, its employees, and other individuals have with respect to FHFA-OIG?

The IG Act provides FHFA-OIG with access to all information available to FHFA that is needed to fulfill our responsibilities.  FHFA also requires all employees, contractors, grantees, and other persons carrying out functions for it to cooperate with our information requests and questions.  Employees have a duty to report suspected instances of fraud, waste, abuse, misconduct, or criminal activity.

Employees or others concerned about possible wrongdoing can contact us through the FHFA-OIG Hotline.

What are the offices within FHFA-OIG?

FHFA-OIG is comprised of the following offices:

  • Executive Office, which includes Office of Counsel and Office of Risk Analysis
  • Office of Audits
  • Office of Evaluations
  • Office of Compliance and Special Projects
  • Office of Investigations
  • Office of Administration
  • Office of Internal Controls and Facilities

Audits, Evaluations, and Compliance Reviews

Through our audits, evaluations, and compliance reviews, we look for instances of fraud, waste, and abuse in FHFA’s programs and operations; we challenge FHFA to improve its oversight over its conserved entities, enhance its supervision, and put rigorous internal controls into place; and we hold FHFA accountable for the recommendations it agrees to implement to correct the deficiencies we identify in its programs and operations.

What is an audit?

Audits are reviews of an agency’s programs and operations to ensure that the agency is efficiently and effectively performing its work. Audits are objective, fact based, and performed in accordance with standards established by the Comptroller General of the United States for audits of Federal establishments, organizations, programs, activities, and functions.  Those standards are found in Government Auditing Standards published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (the Yellow Book).

We generally conduct performance audits, which assess whether the established goals and objectives of an FHFA program or operation have been achieved; whether FHFA’s resources are being used economically and efficiently; and whether the intended and realized results of the audited FHFA program or operation are consistent with laws, regulations, and good business practices.  Our performance audits provide findings based on an assessment of sufficient, appropriate evidence measured against criteria such as laws, regulations, contracts, or FHFA policies and procedures.  Where shortcomings are found, performance audits recommend corrective actions to improve program performance and operations, reduce costs, facilitate corrective action, and contribute to public accountability.

What is an evaluation?

An evaluation is an independent assessment of the design, implementation, or results of an agency’s programs, operations, resource management, or internal controls.

FHFA-OIG conducts evaluations in accordance with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation.

Our evaluations provide in-depth analyses of the facts we find as measured against established criteria, using professional judgment.  We may identify shortcomings in FHFA’s programs or operations and recommend corrective actions, as warranted.

How does FHFA-OIG determine what to audit or evaluate?

Beginning in Fall 2014, FHFA-OIG determined to focus its resources on the programs and operations that pose the greatest financial, governance, and/or reputational risk to FHFA, the Enterprises, and the FHLBanks.  We base our decisions on risk and concentrate on areas that we see as the most serious management and performance challenges for FHFA, which we identify annually in a memorandum to the FHFA Director.  We seek to improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of FHFA programs and operations.

We are a trusted change agent because of our demonstrated independence and objectivity: we ask difficult questions and are not persuaded by rote answers; we critically assess the evidence we obtain during our fieldwork; we report findings that are supported by sufficient evidence in accordance with professional standards; and we recommend practical solutions tied to our findings.

What is a compliance review?

A compliance review is a study conducted by FHFA-OIG to determine the effectiveness of a corrective action taken by FHFA to implement a recommendation in one of our audits or evaluations.  FHFA-OIG conducts its compliance reviews in accordance with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation.

We undertake compliance reviews because, when we close our recommendations, we cannot always assess whether the corrective action taken by FHFA met both the letter and spirit of the agreed-upon recommendation or whether the underlying shortcoming was addressed.  Therefore, we conduct compliance reviews on select closed recommendations to hold FHFA accountable for the corrective actions it has represented as implemented.

When a compliance review finds a recommendation has not been implemented and the underlying shortcoming remains, we reopen the recommendation and track it until FHFA takes appropriate corrective action.

We publish the compliance review results so our stakeholders may assess for themselves the efficacy of FHFA’s efforts to correct the shortcomings identified in our audits and evaluations.

Compliance reviews are the method by which FHFA-OIG holds FHFA accountable for the corrective actions it says it has implemented.  They also enhance our ability to stimulate positive change in critical areas and promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in FHFA’s programs and operations.

How do you audit?

Audits have two phases:

Fieldwork

  • Fieldwork requirements establish an overall approach for auditors to apply in planning and performing an audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence that provides a reasonable basis for findings and conclusions based on the audit objectives.
  • We announce to the Agency the proposed scope and objectives of the project.
  • We meet with Agency staff to discuss our scope and objectives, information needs, and key milestones.
  • We gather and analyze information.
  • We meet with Agency staff to ask follow-up questions, as appropriate, and obtain other information used to develop our findings and recommendations.

Reporting

  • We provide a discussion draft of the factual discussion and analysis for technical comments to FHFA, and we revise the draft to address those technical comments, as appropriate.
  • We develop findings and recommendations based on relevant criteria or benchmarking.  We provide a complete draft report, including findings and recommendations, to FHFA, and seek its written response to it.
  • We issue a final report to the Agency that includes the Agency’s written response.  We provide the report to Congress and post it to our website.

How do you evaluate?

Evaluations have three phases:

Planning

  • We announce to the Agency the proposed scope and objectives of the project.
  • We meet with Agency staff to discuss our scope and objectives, information needs, and key milestones.

Fieldwork

  • We gather and analyze information.
  • We meet with Agency staff, as appropriate, to ask for more information.

Reporting

  • We provide a discussion draft of the factual discussion and analysis for technical comments to FHFA, and we revise the draft to address those technical comments, as appropriate.
  • We develop findings and recommendations based on relevant criteria or benchmarking.  We provide a complete draft report, including findings and recommendations, to FHFA, and seek its written response to it.
  • We issue a final report to the Agency that includes FHFA’s written response.  We provide the report to Congress and post it to our website.

What types of reports do you issue?

All of the reports that we issue are on our public website and on Oversight.gov.  As those websites reflect, the reports we issue include audits and evaluations, compliance reviews, management alerts and advisories, reports of administrative inquiries, special reports, white papers, and semiannual reports to Congress.

How do you determine whether FHFA has implemented your recommendations?

Before we close a recommendation, we ask FHFA to provide us with documentation to show that it has implemented our recommendations.

Because we are not always able to assess, at the time that we close a recommendation, whether the implemented corrective actions by FHFA meet the letter and spirit of the agreed-upon recommendation, nor can we determine, at closure, whether the underlying shortcoming has been addressed, we conduct compliance reviews on a sample of closed recommendations to hold FHFA accountable for the corrective actions it has represented as implemented.

We issue and post on our website a monthly report on all open recommendations and closed, unimplemented recommendations and in our semiannual reports to Congress.

Investigations

What is an OIG investigation and how does it start?

Investigations come from complaints we receive from FHFA employees and contractors, employees of the entities regulated by FHFA, and from the public.  We also may open investigations based on information we receive in the course of an audit or evaluation, or from Congress, FHFA, or other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice.  Matters we investigate include:

  • Violations of federal and state criminal laws;
  • Fraud in the origination, financing, and modification of single- and multifamily mortgages and mortgage servicing rights;
  • Contract and procurement irregularities;
  • Waste, mismanagement, or abuse of funds in connection with FHFA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or any of the FHLBanks;
  • Obstruction of Agency operations, such as providing false information to regulators;
  • Employee misconduct; and
  • Ethics violations or conflicts of interest by Agency officials.

FHFA-OIG Special Agents have statutory law enforcement authority, including the power to effect arrests, execute warrants, and carry firearms.  They work with federal and state prosecutors and law enforcements agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes with a nexus to FHFA-OIG’s statutory responsibility to oversee the programs and operations of FHFA in its dual roles as the conservator and supervisor of the Enterprises and the supervisor of the FHLBanks.  Their investigative efforts may result in criminal convictions and the imposition of sentences that may include incarceration and the imposition of criminal fines and forfeitures and, in civil or administrative cases, the imposition of civil money penalties and other sanctions.

When an administrative investigation uncovers evidence of wrongdoing by an FHFA employee, the results are presented to FHFA for consideration of administrative action.  As appropriate, the results of administrative investigations are provided to the U.S. Department of Justice for consideration of criminal or civil action, or to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, as appropriate.

How do I file a complaint with FHFA-OIG?

To file a complaint, contact the FHFA-OIG Hotline.  We are unable to intervene in or investigate individual consumer complaints regarding an individual’s financial institution.  For these complaints, please read our information on consumer complaints against financial institutions. [Link to the FHFA-OIG Hotline: https://www.fhfaoig.gov/ReportFraud]