Improvements Needed in EPA's Inspector General Operations

AFMD-84-13: Published: Oct 21, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 1984.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

John J. Adair
(202) 275-5200
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Inspector General (IG) operations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), focusing on: (1) the handling of investigations and audits; (2) the allocation of investigative resources; (3) the types of audits being performed; and (4) how certain requirements of the Inspector General Act of 1978 are being met.

GAO found that most IG audits and investigations had been properly handled but, in some cases, investigations were performed inconsistently or relevant matters were not thoroughly investigated. In particular, three investigations concerning sick leave abuse, telephone abuse, and favoritism were not handled in a manner consistent with similar investigations. In another investigation involving conflict of interest, the IG did not address certain factual questions bearing on the case before referring the case for possible prosecution. IG investigative resources were not being allocated efficiently; in 1982, IG investigators spent about 17 percent of their time performing functions that could have been performed by support personnel. GAO believes that additional personnel, combined with the use of screening criteria for cases, could enable the IG to better allocate resources and reduce a large backlog of uninvestigated allegations. In addition, the IG has not taken a balanced approach to audit coverage; GAO believes that, while clearing up the backlog of external contract grant audits is important, more coverage should be provided to internal programs and operations, such as EPA enforcement activities. GAO also found that the IG had acted inconsistently in protecting or disclosing the identities of complainants, in some cases leaving complainants open to possible retaliation, and in other cases protecting identities unnecessarily.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency does not agree with the second part of this recommendation. It is not sure it would be possible to visualize all possible circumstances and develop criteria for identifying serious or flagrant matters and believes specific criteria could restrict the ability of the IG to take necessary actions.

    Recommendation: To help ensure proper implementation of sections 7(b) and 5(d) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, the Inspector General, EPA, should establish: (1) procedures that allow for information provided to or acquired by the IG during the course of an audit or investigation to be made available to persons having a need for such information, while also protecting the identity of an employee making a complaint; and (2) guidelines for determining when matters are "serious or flagrant" and therefore should be reported under section 5(d) of the Inspector General Act.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency: Office of the Inspector General

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: In order that investigative resources be used more effectively, the Inspector General, EPA, should provide appropriate guidance for determining which matters to investigate, considering the dollar amount involved, the seriousness of the allegation, and the administrative remedies that are available to program officials.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency: Office of the Inspector General

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Inspector General, EPA, should initiate adequate quality control procedures to ensure that hotline allegations are appropriately developed and that investigations and investigative reports are consistent with guidance established in the agency's Investigator's Handbook and are of uniform high quality.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency: Office of the Inspector General

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 30, 2016

Sep 29, 2016

Sep 28, 2016

Sep 27, 2016

Sep 26, 2016

Sep 23, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Aug 30, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here