(CNSNews.com) - The Treasury Department inspector general told Congress on Monday that he asked the big question -- who at the Internal Revenue Service ordered the targeting of conservative groups? -- but got no answers. And the new acting Commissioner of the IRS says he hasn't even asked the question yet, as he conducts his 30-day "accountability" review.
"Have either of you asked the individuals in Cincinnati, who ordered this? Who ordered them to use this extra scrutiny to punish or penalize or postpone or deny?" Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) asked acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel and Treasury IG J. Russell George at Monday's hearing.
Has that question been asked of any employee?"
"Yes," George replied. "During our audit, Congressman, we did pose that question, and no one would acknowledge who, if anyone, provided that direction."
"So, no one would acknowledge who gave the directive to do this?," Graves asked.
"That's correct," said George. "They did not identify anybody who gave the order," he later clarified.
George's office recently issued a report saying that the IRS employees in Cincinnati had singled out conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny and delay when they requested tax-exempt status.
Graves asked Werfel if he is "satisfied" with the response given to George by individuals in the Cincinnati office.
"No," said Werfel. "We'll have to get to the bottom of it."
"No matter how far it goes up the chain, you will find out who made this order?" Graves asked.
"We will uncover every fact," Werfel said.
Graves later asked Werfel, "Have you asked any of the employees in Cincinnati if they were asked to carry out those targeted applications?"
"Not at this time. I have not asked those questions yet," Werfel responded.
Werfel told the House appropriation subcommittee that White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough had asked Werfel if he would be interested in "going over to help the IRS."
"Did you ask the White House chief of staff who in fact had ordered these special targets here?" Graves asked.
"No, I did not," Werfel responded. "I just -- I wanted to make sure I understood what the -- what the mission was and what they were asking me to do."
Graves replied: "So you were willing to take the post not knowing where it may go, what it involved, who was in -- responsible for scandal, and then you have yet to even go to Cincinnati and ask those employees who ordered it?"
"By way of background, I have been a civil servant for the government for 16 years," Werfel said. "I have deep respect for those civil servants including those at the IRS. The IRS is an agency in need right now. I have a reputation for stepping in and help solve government problems. I took the job because I felt like I could be helpful. That is why I took the job."
"OK," said Graves. "Well, one way to be helpful would be to go to Cincinnati and find out who ordered them to carry out these -- these targets."
Graves said that should be Werfel's first question.
But Inspector General George told the congressman that his office, working with the Justice Department, is "looking further into this matter.
"And if Werfel were to exert himself too much into the process, it might impact our ability to -- and the Justice Department's ability -- to continue our review, so there are limitations," George said.