Washington, DC — The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to hire contractors to perform many of its audits while shifting resources away from public health issues, such as air and water pollution, according to an internal e-mail released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In the coming year the EPA Inspector General (IG) wants to concentrate on pursuing Bush administration policies on risk assessment and program evaluation.
The June 4, 2007 e-mail from Acting EPA Inspector General Bill Roderick to his top staff proposes that for the 2008 Fiscal Year, beginning this October, the IG reorganize its staff and priorities to –
- Contract out financial audits and reviews of information security. The Roderick e-mail queries “What other financial statement audits can we see about contracting out?”
- At the same time it is increasing its own reliance on contractors, it would reduce audits of EPA contracts to devote more resources to an evaluation program pushed by the President’s Office of Management & Budget: “I think we could take a break from contracts to hit the PART [Program Assessment Rating Tool] for ‘08”; and
- Drop much work in air and water pollution claiming “we have saturated” these areas and begin unspecified work on research and enforcement programs, after “developing topics” for review.
“Oversight of EPA should not be put out for bid on eBay,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that over the years, the Inspector General’s office has repeatedly exposed EPA’s over reliance upon and mismanagement of contracts. “The next time EPA loses a laptop with sensitive information on it all of the expertise within the IG on information security will be gone, replaced by private consultants.”
Roderick is moving ahead with his reorganization of the EPA-IG without any congressional consultation. Congress has already moved to block a plan developed by Roderick this spring to significantly downsize its IG, including early retirements for auditors, criminal investigators and chemists. Roderick received a bonus from top EPA management for his work on that staff reduction plan.
Roderick has been the Acting Inspector General since the previous IG, Nikki Tinsley, who had a reputation for independence, retired early last year. In late April, the White House withdrew its EPA-IG nomination of Alex Beehler, a Defense Department official, due to deep congressional resistance. No replacement has yet been named. With each passing week, it becomes more likely the IG will continue for at least another year without a permanent leader.
“Many would vehemently disagree with the assertion that EPA air and water pollution program merit no further oversight for the next two to three years, as Mr. Roderick suggests,” Ruch added, noting that the EPA budget for FY ’08 is currently under active consideration by both houses of Congress. “Similarly, investigators pursuing probes with critical public health implications should not be reassigned to make sense of the latest Bush administration management fad.”