May 26 (UPI) -- The former acting inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday defended a report she issued a month ago that detailed severe shortages of medical supplies.
Christi Grimm, appearing by video before the House oversight committee as it probed the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 crisis, said she stood by her April 6 report, which found severe shortages of coronavirus tests and wait times of a week or longer for test results.
"The report provided quick and reliable data from the ground," Grimm said, adding that it was intended to help hospitals manage scarce resources during the early stages of the pandemic.
Based on a survey of 323 U.S. hospitals, it also determined that hospitals experienced widespread shortages of personal protective equipment including masks and gloves due to increased use and the lack of a robust supply chain.
Three weeks later he nominated Jason Weida to serve as a permanent replacement for Grimm, who has been in the role since Trump took office in 2017.
Democratic committee members see the move as part of a pattern in which the White House has retaliated against several independent government watchdogs. They introduced a bill last week to protect IGs from political retaliation after four other watchdogs were removed by Trump in recent weeks.
Asked by committee chairman Gerald Connolly, D-Va., if she is "concerned professionally that the independence of IGs or your own independence are at risk ... by recent statements and actions taken by the executive," Grimm said independence is a "cornerstone" of the law establishing such IGs.
"I view, and the community views, independence and effectiveness of an IG as a key safeguard for the programs that we oversee," she said. "It's a cornerstone of the IG Act and it's a foundational element of the work of any IG."
She added, "I personally and professionally cannot let the idea of providing unpopular information drive decision-making in the work that we do."