Congress has enlisted the General Accounting Office to bolster its investigation into allegations of mismanagement at the National Credit Union Administration.
GAO officials have interviewed the agency's director, Shirlee P. Bowne, and former Director Robert Swan, and are expected to make a preliminary report to lawmakers this week. The accounting office got involved at the behest of Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and Bill McCollum, R-Fla.
Additionally, the staff of the House Banking Committee's general oversight and investigations subcommittee, which is headed Rep. Bachus, is combing through boxes of credit union administration documents subpoenaed last month.
The joint probe is investigating a series of accusations made by Mr. Swan, who charged at a May 1 hearing before Rep. Bachus' panel that administration Chairman Norman E. D'Amours cut other board members out of policymaking decisions.
"As Mr. Swan made these allegations in testimony before the subcommittee, we take them very seriously," the June 12 letter said.
The lawmakers asked the GAO to look into charges that Mr. D'Amours stifled the information flow to the other board members and instructed administration staff members to conduct surveillance of board members. GAO is also looking into claims that administration staffers established agency policies without board approval and illegally solicited contributions from credit unions for agency-sponsored projects.
"If any of these allegations are true, then there's a real problem at that agency," said an aide to Rep. McCollum.
While the May 1 congressional hearing focused largely on Mr. Swan's accusations, it originally had been called to investigate the White House's ouster of Mr. Swan.
The former administration board director, whose term expired last August, was replaced with banking lawyer Yolanda T. Wheat April 12 in a recess appointment made while the Senate was not in session. Mr. Swan sued the White House, charging the administration lacks authority to remove board members of independent agencies.
Mr. Swan is currently appealing a June 21 court decision that found the White House acted lawfully when it removed him.
James L. Bothwell, GAO director for financial institutions and market issues, said he expects the merit of charges regarding credit union administration examiners' requests for contributions to be determined quickly.
"A few interviews with examiners ought to clear that one up," Mr. Bothwell said.
But Mr. Swan's allegations of bad board management may be more difficult to prove, he said.
"The improper procedure accusations may take longer, because we would have to learn for ourselves exactly what all the administrative procedures are," Mr. Bothwell said.
Robert Loftus, the credit union administration's director of public and congressional affairs, said he views the GAO inquiry as a chance for vindication.
"We think that they will find that the agency is being well-run," Mr. Loftus said.