Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Incompetence? During the Bush administration?

Do tell:
Complaints are beginning to pile up against the U.S. Interior Department. And they're coming not just from outside critics but also from people in the agency. The problems surfacing are serious: managerial incompetence, bureaucratic snafus that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and a pervasive forgive-and-forget attitude toward senior department officials who cross ethical lines.

The Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog group, released a study this week charging that Interior's Minerals and Management Service (MMS) has become far more lax the past four years in collecting unpaid royalties from the land it leases to oil and natural gas companies. From 2002 to 2005, MMS's auditing and compliance division collected $48 million not paid on mineral leases, which is "less than half the average $115 million collected annually in the division's first 20 years," according to Beth Daley, the watchdog organization's director of investigations. The drop in collections, Daley says, came after the auditing and compliance division cut its staff by 26% and began relying more on a computerized checking system of the leases "based upon information provided from the industry."

But the watchdog group's beef with Interior is tepid compared with the blast delivered a day earlier by the department's own inspector general, Earl Devaney. In scorching testimony before a House Government Reform subcommittee the no-nonsense Devaney charged that during his seven years as Interior's IG his revelations of misdeeds and foul-ups have been routinely "disregarded by the department." Numerous IG reports on regulations circumvented, procurement irregularities, project failures and bureaucrats being awarded bonuses despite their failures have been met with "vehement challenges" by Interior officials "to the quality of our audits, evaluations and investigations," he told lawmakers.
Amazing what is coming out now about the Bush years... I guess someone unclicked the mute button.

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