Government Operations:

Improvements Needed in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of Inspector and Auditor

EMD-81-72: Published: Jul 9, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1981.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for regulating the commercial use of nuclear power in the United States, with the goal of preserving public health and safety and protecting the environment. To help NRC carry out its duties, an Office of Inspector and Auditor (OIA) was created to provide the Commissioners with oversight over NRC programs and activities and to make recommendations for corrective actions. OIA is supposed to eliminate waste, fraud, and inefficiency within NRC by functioning in an independent audit capacity.

To be effective, any audit organization must have: (1) a capable, professional, and motivated staff; (2) an adequate planning and prioritization system; (3) a set of policies, procedures, and mechanisms for guiding and monitoring the staff; and (4) a system for following up on past work. Weaknesses in any one of these areas contribute to work which can be less than satisfactory in quality, timeliness, and impact. Such weaknesses presently exist in OIA operations. OIA has not followed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements and GAO guidance in planning and prioritizing its work. As a result, OIA has focused too much of its attention on administrative and personnel matters rather than on the more important NRC programs and has not concentrated its investigative resources on work aimed at eliminating fraud and waste within NRC. Organizationally, OIA is independent but, functionally, GAO found examples where OIA independence needs to be strengthened.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider establishing an Office of Inspector General at NRC in view of the critical importance of effective and efficient regulation to the future of commercial nuclear activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of NRC should require the Director of OIA to (1) develop a systematic planning and prioritization process for audit and investigative work which complies with OMB criteria and GAO guidance; (2) concentrate its OIA investigative resources on work aimed at eliminating fraud and waste within NRC; (3) avoid assigning auditors to investigative work; (4) establish a process of coordination between the audit and investigative groups in identifying possible assignments and clearly communicate that process to the OIA staff; (5) develop formal guidance for the staff to follow in carrying out its work; (6) institute a formalized system of control over assignments where milestones and staff resources are established for completing critical steps and periodic job reviews are held to evaluate the status of assignments; and (7) establish and adhere to requirements regarding the follow-up on audit reports and see to it that office directors respond in writing to OIA investigative reports.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of NRC should explore the possibility of assigning nonappropriate employee complaint cases and equal employment opportunity allegations to some other NRC office. This will allow the OIA investigative staff to give more attention to eliminating fraud and waste within NRC.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of NRC should: (1) initiate immediate actions to establish a more formal process for seeking agency officials' comments on OIA draft reports; any exception to this formal process, such as the use of an informal draft to obtain comments, should be clearly disclosed in the final report; (2) direct OIA to issue its reports if program offices are untimely in providing their comments and require OIA to reflect in its reports any changes made based on program office comments; and (3) discontinue the practice of OIA conducting joint investigations with other NRC offices.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

 

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