Energy:

Procedures Need Strengthening in the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation's Conflict of Interest Program

RCED-84-98: Published: Sep 20, 1984. Publicly Released: Oct 22, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the appropriateness of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation's criteria for identifying confidential information and the consistency with which these criteria have been applied; (2) whether First Colony Project (FCP) information initially withheld from the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and subsequently provided to a public interest group had been properly classified as confidential; (3) the existing legislative criteria governing the Corporation's conflict-of-interest program; (4) its procedures for preventing conflicts of interest and how these procedures are followed.

GAO found that the Corporation's criteria for identifying confidential information were consistent with Freedom of Information Act provisions and, for the most part, the Corporation consistently applied its criteria for identifying confidential information on the project reviewed. In addition, GAO found that, in 17 incidences, the Corporation initially withheld information from the Subcommittee because it misclassified general information as confidential. GAO also found that the amount of misclassified FCP information deleted was small compared to the total volume of material provided. The Subcommittee was eventually provided the full text of the material with the confidential information highlighted. GAO identified four weaknesses in the Corporation's conflict-of-interest program: (1) some Corporation employees with key responsibilities not submitting reports on their financial interests; (2) some Corporation contractors not providing complete information needed to determine their financial interests in, and affiliations with, companies conducting business with the Corporation prior to contract agreement time; (3) insufficient Corporation monitoring of officers' and employees' financial interests for potential conflicts of interest; and (4) some conflict-of-interest determinations have been inconsistently made or inadequately documented.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. 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 Chairman of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation should expand the Corporation's criteria on which employees should be submitting reports of their financial interests by specifying, in the criteria, that they are also applicable to those employees with key responsibilities, not necessarily project-specific.

    Agency Affected: United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation

  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: The Chairman of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation should enforce the Corporation's requirement that all independent contractors under service to the Corporation either report their financial interests in, and affiliations with, companies on the Corporation's list of participating organizations, or report that they have none.

    Agency Affected: United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation

  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 Chairman of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation should direct the ethics officer to increase the frequency of his monitoring of officers' and employees' financial interests to better identify and resolve conflict-of-interest situations.

    Agency Affected: United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation

  4. 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 Chairman of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation should require the ethics officer to ensure that conflict-of-interest decisions are consistent and the reasons for the decisions are documented in the Corporation's files.

    Agency Affected: United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation

 

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