NOVEMBER 09, 2017
A government agency with a sordid history paid $1.5 million for subsidized and unoccupied parking spaces in violation of executive orders designed to save taxpayer dollars and the environment by cracking down on parking subsidies in the federal workforce. The waste occurred over a two-year period at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C. and a regional office in Atlanta Georgia. The two locations doled out more than $840,000 to subsidize employee parking and around $690,000 for unoccupied spaces, according to a federal audit released this week.
In the 42-page report, the EPA Inspector General points out the irony of an agency charged with promoting air quality disobeying various federal orders enacted to improve air quality and public health in the capital area. Among them is Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, which requires federal agencies in the capital region to implement a transit subsidy fringe benefit to discourage commuting by single occupancy vehicles, improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Another is Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which establishes “a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations” and encourages agencies to “promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees … and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law.”
Other EPA regional offices do not provide subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies in D.C. don’t either, the watchdog reveals. Among them is the General Services Administration (GSA), the government’s central management agency that handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. The agency is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. “Other federal agencies, such as the GSA, no longer provide subsidized parking to employees except those with disabilities, and nine of the 10 EPA regions also do not provide this fringe benefit,” the EPA IG report states. “The GSA’s Director of Operational Support Division and National Parking Manager observed that the GSA’s new, nonsubsidized parking policy reduced the number of employees driving to work by over 80 percent.”
While it certainly constitutes the squandering of taxpayer dollars, the EPA parking bruhaha is nothing compared to some of the agency’s scandals over the years. During the Obama administration the EPA gave leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.” Some of the agency funds went to groups that help illegal immigrants, among them a New Jersey nonprofit (Lazos America Unida) that advocates on behalf of the “Mexican immigrant community” and a Missouri farm workers’ group that aims to increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure in migrant populations. Judicial Watch sued the EPA earlier this year for records about the controversial environmental justice grants because the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2015.
Various probes have also uncovered an epidemic of EPA employees watching pornography on government computers during work hours. This is a government-wide problem, but the EPA appears to be in a class of its own. Watching porn at the agency is so widespread that a bill (Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act) was introduced in Congress and the lawmaker behind it, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, said the EPA served as an inspiration for the measure. “One EPA employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office,” the congressman said. “The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer.”
The EPA also fails to punish corrupt employees and allows them to keep their government paychecks, according to a scathing federal audit that includes slews of examples in which the agency failed to take action against workers who committed wrongdoing. For instance, a senior executive simultaneously worked in a private-sector job while he was supposedly performing tasks at the EPA. Agency brass took no action for nearly a year and ultimately put the executive on “paid administrative leave,” allowing the worker to collect full pay for doing nothing. Other cases include eight employees accused by the EPA of misconduct who are also on paid leave and have accrued around 21,000 hours at a cost of more than $1 million and two employees who got busted watching porn during work hours. Each of the porn viewers has an annual salary of $120,000 and both were placed on administrative leave for a year before they were even reprimanded, according to the audit. One of them retired with full benefits without any punishment and the other is still collecting a full government paycheck. The cases go on and on. “Recent events and activities indicate a possible ‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors at the EPA regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees,” the report says.
Let’s not forget that under Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, the agency was investigated for dodging potential public scrutiny and possibly congressional oversight by using bogus electronic mail accounts to conduct official business. Judicial Watch is investigating the matter and has sued the EPA for using a private encryption software to thwart government oversight and transparency.
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