Federal employees are in a vulnerable position for an investigation by an Office of Inspector General (or OIG). Basically, an OIG investigation can run in two different directions. Each has it’s own dangers that a federal employee who hears from an OIG Agent needs to be aware of.
If an OIG Agent is investigating a criminal violation of law, then the federal employee has the risk of being prosecuted. If the OIG Agent thinks he or she can prove that the federal employee committed a crime, and the OIG Agent can convince an Assistant United States Attorney to bring a case, then the federal government is bringing its resources to bear to convict the federal employee of a crime. Often, this means that the government wants a felony conviction, and it can quickly mean that prison time is a real risk.
If, however, the Assistant United States Attorney decides that a criminal prosecution is not warranted, either because there isn’t enough evidence of a crime, or because what happened isn’t serious enough to warrant a prosecution, or because what the OIG Agent is investigating isn’t a violation of a criminal law, then the federal employee is still not in a good position, because he or she can lose his or her job. If criminal charges aren’t an option, the OIG Agent can require that a federal employee give an interview. If the employee doesn’t give the interview, then that can be a basis for a disciplinary action.