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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's management problems, focusing on: (1) the status of the Board's organization and operations; (2) the Board's efforts to update and develop plans, policies, and procedures for accomplishing the Board's mission, including those aimed at ensuring the objectivity of its investigative activities; and (3) whether the Board would benefit from the independent oversight of an inspector general.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board should develop and implement clear policies and procedures on potential conflicts of interest and consider other policies and procedures that would further promote investigative impartiality and thoroughness, such as ensuring substantive disagreements among investigative team members are appropriately identified and addressed, the reporting of minority views of Board members in investigative reports, the handling of requests for reconsideration of aspects of issued reports, and external peer review.
Closed - Implemented
The Chemical Safety Board has adopted several policies and procedures aimed at addressing GAO's recommendation that the Board better ensure "investigative impartiality and thoroughness." Regarding the resolution of professional differences of opinion that may occur during an investigation, the Board has revised its procedures to require that Board members are informed about investigative issues resolved by the Chief Operating Officer when incident investigation reports are submitted to them for review and approval. The procedures also clarify that Board members may contact staff conducting investigations for information and discussion. In addition, the Board has revised its procedures to allow the publication of a Board member's dissenting statement to an incident investigation report on the Board's web site. To address the handling of requests for reconsideration of aspects of issued reports, and external peer review, the Board has revised its investigation protocol to add detailed procedures for vetting reports to appropriate parties. In addition, in response to the conflict GAO identified between the Board's procedures and its agreement with EPA regarding the joint conduct of interviews, the Board has changed its procedures to allow other investigatory agencies to conduct joint interviews with the Board when appropriate. The previous policy stipulated that the Board should always conduct its interviews independently. Finally, in 2004, in response to a report from the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General that recommended that the Board develop and implement clear policies and procedures on potential conflicts of interest per GAO's earlier recommendation, the Board has committed to publishing a policy regarding employee conflicts of interest which is scheduled to be issued by September 30, 2004. In the meantime, the Board approved Board Order 21 on the CSB Ethics Program which appointed the Board's general counsel to administer the CFR-outlined basics of an ethics program, including annual training and financial disclosure statements.
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board To provide the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board with the benefits of independent institutional oversight and to protect the government's financial interests, the Board should develop an agreement with an existing office of inspector general, giving that office the authority to investigate the Board's operations and programs, monitor agency responses to its recommendations, report to the Board and Congress about weaknesses and deficiencies, and provide a hotline to report instances of suspected fraud, waste, or abuse. The Board should also notify Congress in the event that it is unable to negotiate an agreement for these services with an existing inspector general.
Closed - Implemented
As recommended, the Chemical Safety Board agreed to seek assistance from an existing Office of Inspector General to provide institutional oversight of the Board. The Federal Emergency Management Agency IG now provides institutional oversight of the Board.

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