EPA Has A ‘Culture Of Complacency’
A new report by federal investigators takes aim at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “culture of complacency,” criticizing the agency for not doing enough to combat waste, fraud and abuse.
“We identified agency inaction among some supervisors regarding time and attendance controls, segregation of duties for key financial transactions, real property management, and employee travel,” the EPA inspector general’s office reported.
“The agency’s size necessitates effective communication, oversight and management,” the IG reported. “While the EPA has taken many corrective actions to address prior audits, improvements are still needed. Issues recently identified demonstrate continued deficiencies in the commitment by personnel to management policies and internal control.”
The IG’s report also takes aim at how EPA oversees its environmental programs and how the agency deals with cyber security threats. Investigators had concerns in both those areas, but slammed EPA’s “culture of complacency” when it came to protecting taxpayers.
“As stewards of taxpayer dollars, EPA managers must emphasize and reemphasize the importance of compliance and ethical conduct throughout the agency, and ensure it is embraced at every level of the organization,” the IG reported.
The IG slammed EPA for allowing employees to take lengthy leaves of absence without proper justification. Auditors have repeatedly noted how EPA was allowing people months of paid leave, even for employees who had committed crimes.
The IG found in 2014 that “eight employees totaled 20,926 hours and cost the government an estimated $1,096,868” while on paid leave, and each “was on extended administrative leave for four or more months.”
The IG noted “four of the eight employees” were on leave for more than a year, and these workers were given raises despite being paid not to work.
The IG reported in 2015 that an EPA employee indicted for selling marijuana was given six months of paid leave. Investigators also found “no documentation in the file explaining the deviation from policy or how the terms of the settlement agreement were arrived at.”
The Government Accountability Office has also criticized EPA’s administrative leave practices. GAO reported in 2014 the “salary cost for EPA employees on administrative leave for fiscal years (FYs) 2011 through 2013 was $17,550,100.”
GAO reported that 69 EPA employees were on administrative leave for one month or more, including 50 who were on leave for more than three months. Two EPA workers were on leave for over a year.
Even before the discovery of employees being paid while on leave, former EPA employee John Beale was convicted of stealing nearly $900,000 from taxpayers while pretending to be a CIA agent.
Beale’s theft was discovered by agency officials in 2013 after he had been paid his salary for months despite being retired. Beale served jail time, but was released from prison in April 2016 to serve out the second half of his 32-month sentence in a halfway house in Philadelphia