SEPTEMBER 14, 2006
The longtime Inspector General of a huge government agency with a multi-billion dollar budget told a Congressional panel this week that it is infested with widespread ethical failures, cronyism and incompetence dating back to costly offshore drilling deals secured during the Bill Clinton administration.
Since being appointed Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior by Clinton in 1999, Earl Devaney has been responsible for investigating abuses and overseeing operations at the agency which has more than 80,000 employees and an annual budget of $16.4 billion. His findings are appalling.
Devaney testified that “short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior” and that “ethics failures on the part of senior department officials – taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias – have been routinely dismissed with a promise not to do it again.”
The Inspector General said that over the years numerous agency officials have gotten away with severe ethical lapses, including a former deputy secretary who pushed policy decisions that favored his former oil and gas industry clients as well as a technology firm that he had represented as a lobbyist.
Devaney also offered the outrageous findings of his most recent investigation, which will end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars while allowing wealthy oil companies to get richer. It stems from the 1998 and 1999 offshore drilling leases that allow energy companies to escape normal federal royalty fees on tens of millions of barrels of oil on each lease.
Department of Interior officials discovered their multi-billion dollar mistake in 2000 and have covered it up for six years. The deals include more than 1,000 offshore leases and government officials estimate that the mistake could cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $10 billion. In an effort to recover some of the money, Congress has a bill pending but the leases are binding contracts.
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