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Postal Service Revenue: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Postal Service Revenue: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
Source: U.S. Post Office, Office of Inspector General

We have all read the negative headlines of U.S. Postal Service’s looming financial demise. However, in its new paper, U.S. Postal Service Revenue: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?, the OIG finds that the Postal Service may be turning a corner. An increase in parcel volume, significant cost reductions, and the exigent price increase are collectively driving an improvement in the Postal Service’s financial health.

Nevertheless, the Postal Service still faces numerous challenges, including the continued and persistent decline in First-Class Mail volume, an ever-increasing number of delivery points, and an increased need to make investments for its future. While significant, these challenges are not insurmountable. In order to further improve its financial position, the Postal Service will need to focus on increasing the revenue yield of its traditional products wherever market forces and conditions allow, including taking advantage of the growing parcel market. In addition, the Postal Service would benefit from diversifying into other areas of business, especially logistics and financial services.

Review of the Use of Confidentiality Agreements by Department of State Contractors

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Review of the Use of Confidentiality Agreements by Department of State Contractors (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

All of the 30 contractors with the largest dollar volume of Department of State contracts used some variation of a confidentiality agreement or confidentiality policy. Some of the contractors had policies or agreements that might have some chilling effect on employees who are considering whether to report fraud, waste, or abuse to the government, such as nondisparagement clauses or provisions requiring notice to the company after receiving an inquiry from a government official. However, none of the companies reported that they had ever enforced any of these provisions against an employee or former employee who disclosed wrongdoing to the government. All 30 contractors also reported that they had a policy in place that encourages the reporting of fraud or legal and ethical violations and provides one or more ways for employees to do so.

From its review of the contractor responses and relevant legal and social science literature, OIG found that several practices are useful in encouraging employees to report fraud, waste, or abuse. These include use of an internal hotline with anonymous option; display of hotline posters in the workplace; a policy that advises employees of their right to contact the government directly if they have knowledge of fraud, waste, or abuse; notification to employees of the statutory protections against retaliation; and a corporate policy that endorses cooperation with a government audit or investigation.

Audit of VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Audit of VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

We conducted this audit to assess how effectively VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program identifies and addresses illegal drug use among VA employees. VA needs to improve management of its Drug-Free Workplace Program. VA selected about 3 of every 10 applicants for pre employment drug testing before hiring these individuals into Testing Designated Positions (TDPs) in fiscal year (FY) 2013. We estimate that of the nearly 22,600 individuals VA reported hiring into TDPs in FY 2013, about 15,800 were hired without a pre-employment drug test. VA facilities tested about 68 percent of the 3,420 employees selected for random drug testing in FY 2013. We identified at least 19,100 employees in TDPs who were not subject to the possibility of monthly random drug testing.

In addition, VA erroneously designated as many as 13,200 employees in non-TDPs for drug testing in FY 2014. Further, only 17 (33 percent) of the 51 employees who tested positive for drugs as a result of reasonable suspicion of on-the-job drug use or after a workplace accident or injury were referred to VA’s Employee Assistance Program.

These issues occurred because VA does not support that all tentative selectees for TDPs need to be drug tested before being hired. VA also does not effectively monitor local facility compliance with random employee drug testing requirements. Furthermore, VA lacks adequate oversight to ensure the accuracy of drug testing data and that consistent personnel actions are taken when employees test positive for drugs. As a result, VA has little assurance that this program is performing as intended to identify and eliminate illegal drug use in its workforce.

Since VA’s workforce is expected to grow significantly with the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, VA needs to take actions to address weaknesses in its Drug-Free Workplace Program immediately. We recommended the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management implement processes to ensure full compliance with VA’s pre-employment applicant drug testing and random employee drug testing requirements, and improve program integrity by ensuring the accurate coding of employees in TDPs.

The Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management concurred with our recommendations and provided an acceptable action plan. We will follow up on the implementation of the corrective actions.

DOJ OIG — The Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegations by the Department’s Law Enforcement Components

March 27, 2015 Comments off

The Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegations by the Department’s Law Enforcement Components (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General
From Executive Summary (PDF):

\The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this review to assess how the Department of Justice’s (Department) four law enforcement components respond to sexual misconduct and harassment allegations made against their employees. This review examined the nature, frequency, reporting, investigation, and adjudication of such allegations in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).

The OIG’s ability to conduct this review was significantly impacted and delayed by the repeated difficulties we had in obtaining relevant information from both the FBI and DEA as we were initiating this review in mid-2013.1 Initially, the FBI and DEA refused to provide the OIG with unredacted information that was responsive to our requests, citing the Privacy Act of 1974 and concerns for victims and witnesses as the reasons for the extensive redactions, despite the fact that the OIG is authorized under the Inspector General Act to receive such information.2

After months of protracted discussions with management at both agencies, the DEA and FBI provided the information without extensive redactions; but we found that the information was still incomplete. Ultimately, based on a review of information in the OIG Investigations Division databases, we determined that a material number of allegations from both DEA and FBI were not included in the original responses to our request for the information.

We were also concerned by an apparent decision by DEA to withhold information regarding a particular open misconduct case. The OIG was not given access to this case file information until several months after our request, and only after the misconduct case was closed. Once we became aware of the information, we interviewed DEA employees who said that they were given the impression that they were not to discuss this case with the OIG while the case remained open. The OIG was entitled to receive all such information from the outset, and the failure to provide it unnecessarily delayed our work.

Therefore, we cannot be completely confident that the FBI and DEA provided us with all information relevant to this review. As a result, our report reflects the findings and conclusions we reached based on the information made available to us.

DHS OIG Finds Notorious Felon Allowed to Use TSA PreCheck® Lanes

March 20, 2015 Comments off

DHS OIG Finds Notorious Felon Allowed to Use TSA PreCheck® Lanes (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

A recent report by the DHS Inspector General determined that a convicted felon who had been involved in numerous felonious criminal activities and was also a former member of a domestic terrorist group was permitted to travel with expedited screening through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck®. The report, OIG-15-45 “Allegation of Granting Expedited Screening Through TSA PreCheck® Improperly,” stemmed from a whistleblower disclosure which alleged that a notorious felon was improperly cleared for TSA PreCheck® screening and was allowed to use the PreCheck® lanes.

After an extensive investigation of the allegation and assessment of the TSA PreCheck® initiative, we determined that TSA provided a TSA PreCheck® indicator and barcode on the traveler’s boarding pass. After checking the traveler’s boarding pass and identification, an alert Transportation Security Officer (TSO) at the airport recognized the felon and alerted his supervisor. However, the supervisor directed the TSO to take no action and allow the traveler to continue through the TSA PreCheck® lane.

We determined that this traveler had not applied for TSA PreCheck® through the TSA PreCheck® Application Program, but that TSA granted TSA PreCheck® screening to this passenger through the risk assessment rules in the Secure Flight program.

+ Full Report (Redacted) (PDF)

DHS OIG — U.S. Customs and Border Protection Did Not Effectively Target and Examine Rail Shipments From Canada and Mexico

March 16, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Did Not Effectively Target and Examine Rail Shipments From Canada and Mexico (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

Why We Did This
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the frontline border security agency within Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged with the priority mission of preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, as well as facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. We conducted this audit to determine whether CBP effectively targets and examines high-risk rail shipments from Mexico and Canada.

What We Found
CBP did not effectively target and examine rail shipments entering the United States from Mexico and Canada. Specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPO) did not always target shipments using the mandatory Automated Targeting System (ATS) targeting criteria. CBPOs also did not always use the required radiation detection equipment to examine high-risk shipments. Finally, CBPOs did not always record the results of their rail cargo examinations in the Cargo Enforcement Reporting and Tracking System (CERTS).

CBPOs were unaware of the correct targeting criteria or inadvertently used inappropriate criteria. In addition, one port did not have the required radiation detection equipment for its rail team, and CBPOs at two other ports used Personal Radiation Detectors to examine shipments. Rail CBPOs also received insufficient training on the use of ATS and CERTS. Finally, Supervisory CBPOs did not provide sufficient oversight to ensure CBPOs followed CBP policy. As a result, CBP may have failed to target or properly examine rail shipments that were at an increased risk to contain contraband or dangerous materials. In addition, CBP has no assurance that decisions to release these high-risk shipments into U.S. commerce were appropriate.

What We Recommend
We made six recommendations which, when implemented, should improve CBP’s processing of rail cargo from Mexico and Canada.

Audit of VHA’s Home Telehealth Program

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s Home Telehealth Program
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans, Office of Inspector General

The goal of the Home Telehealth Program is to improve veterans’ access to care while reducing patient treatment costs. The program does this by remotely monitoring patients’ vital signs in the home and intervening early when adverse trends are detected. We determined how effectively the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is managing its Home Telehealth Program. VHA missed opportunities to expand enrollment for Non-Institutional Care (NIC) patients in the Home Telehealth Program. NIC telehealth patients showed the best outcomes, in terms of reduced inpatient admissions and bed days of care (BDOC). In FY 2013, the number of NIC patients-served declined by 4 percent, while the number of Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Health Promotion/Disease Prevention (HPDP) patients-served grew 51 and 37 percent, respectively.

The significant change in the mix of patients receiving care in this program occurred due to a change in the performance methodology. VHA began to measure program performance by the total number of patients-enrolled, rather than focusing on the increase in enrollment for NIC patients. This change in performance metrics encouraged VHA to enroll more HPDP participants. These participants would likely need less intervention from Primary Care physicians, because their health care needs would be less complex. VHA was successful in reaching its new performance metric. However, obtaining this goal did not result in more patients with the greatest medical needs receiving care under the program. As a result, VA missed opportunities to serve additional NIC patients that could have benefited from the Home Telehealth Program. VA could have potentially delayed the need for long-term institutional care for approximately 59,000 additional veterans in FY 2013.

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