A majority of the federal government's inspectors general - 47 out of 78 - have signed a joint letter to Congress denouncing the Obama administration for obstructing their inquiries into maladministration, waste, fraud and abuse.

The extraordinary letter, dated Aug. 5, cites particular examples from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Peace Corps and, most shockingly, the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Eric Holder claims the right to decide if the IG can view documents in pursuit of his duties.

The federal inspectors general function as watchdogs over the ever-growing bureaucracy, and make a major contribution to keeping government accountable to U.S. citizens.To do so, the IGs must be independent and be able to compel agencies to provide them with full access.

Indeed, the IG letter notes that the intent of the 1978 Inspector General Act is that "an Inspector General must have complete, unfiltered and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that Inspector General's oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens."

That contravenes the novel assertion by Mr. Holder as well as claims by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a subsidiary of the EPA, that IGs may not have access to certain documents.

In other words, appointees of President Obama, who last year bragged of running "the most transparent administration in history," are obstructing the IGs - and through them, the Congress and voters - from finding out how agencies are carrying out their duties.

The IGs' complaints have a parallel in the case of former Internal Revenue Service executive Lois Lerner, who refuses to testify before Congress on her role in the agency's decision to block tax-exempt status for "social welfare" groups promoting conservative ideas.

The IRS has so far been unable to produce official correspondence and emails of Ms. Lerner and several of her colleagues, contending that the computer hard drives where they were stored failed and were destroyed.

Voters need the legislative and executive branches of government to function collaboratively in providing good government.

As the IG letter demonstrates, the current dysfunction of the federal government cannot be laid solely at the door of Congress when the executive branch shows repeated contempt for the law.