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DoD OIG — DoD Cardholders Used Their Government Travel Cards for Personal Use at Casinos and Adult Entertainment Establishments

June 24, 2015 Comments off

DoD Cardholders Used Their Government Travel Cards for Personal Use at Casinos and Adult Entertainment Establishments (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective
Our objective was to determine whether DoD Government travel charge card holders used their card for personal use at casinos or adult entertainment establishments. Public Law 112-194, “Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012,” requires the Inspector General of each executive agency with more than $10 million in travel card spending to periodically audit or review travel card programs. We focused on individually billed travel cards. Cardholders are personally and financially liable for payment of all undisputed charges, including personal use, indicated on the billing statement, not the government.

Finding
DoD cardholders improperly used their Government travel charge card (GTCC) for personal use at casinos and adult entertainment establishments. From July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, DoD cardholders had 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258, where they likely used their travel cards at casinos for personal use and had 900 additional transactions for $96,576 at adult entertainment establishments. Specifically, we reviewed seven nonstatistically selected cardholders who had 76 transactions valued at $19,643 to confirm that our analysis identified personal use at casinos and adult entertainment establishments from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.
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Qualifying for Disability Benefits in Puerto Rico Based on an Inability to Speak English

June 20, 2015 Comments off

Qualifying for Disability Benefits in Puerto Rico Based on an Inability to Speak English
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant qualifies for disability benefits. In claims that reach the last step in the process, adjudicators use medical-vocational guidelines (grids) developed in the 1970s to guide them in deciding a claimant’s physical and vocational abilities to adjust to work in the national economy.

When deciding a case under the grids, adjudicators evaluate a claimant’s physical capacity to work along with age, education, and work experience. The ability to speak, read, write, and understand English is considered an educational factor. A claimant’s inability to communicate in English can lessen the relevance of work experience and education, potentially making it more likely the claimant will receive disability benefits.

The objective of our audit was to analyze the effect of regulations requiring that disability adjudicators allow a disability claim based on a claimant’s inability to understand the English language for claimants residing in Puerto Rico.

Enhancing the Value of Mail — The Human Response

June 18, 2015 Comments off

Enhancing the Value of Mail — The Human Response
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Advertising mail accounted for over $20 billion — or 31 percent — of the U.S. Postal Service’s total revenue in fiscal year 2014. However, marketers have increasingly numerous choices of media available to them in today’s rapidly growing digital world. Understanding physical ad mail’s unique qualities and how people respond to them could enable the Postal Service to identify potential new opportunities to maintain and enhance this critically important source of revenue.

The Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) worked with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to study people’s responses to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including memory of products advertised and intent to purchase. But instead of just using surveys, which rely on people’s stated or conscious preferences, we also monitored physiological and neurological activity to understand the subconscious response. Known as neuromarketing, this rigorous scientific method uses technologies like eye tracking, heart-rate measurement, and MRIs to measure a person’s reaction to various stimuli.

Our study builds on work done by the U.K.’s Royal Mail showing physical media generates greater activity in certain parts of the brain than digital media. The results revealed some distinct neurological and physiological responses to digital and physical media:

  • Participants processed digital ad content quicker but spent more time with physical ads.
  • Participants had a stronger emotional response to physical ads and more easily recalled physical ads, both crucial when making a purchase decision.
  • Physical ads triggered greater brain activity responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which signal a greater intent to purchase.

USDoC OIG — Investigation into Alleged Contracting Misconduct and Exertion of Improper Influence Involving a Senior National Weather Service Official

June 12, 2015 Comments off

Investigation into Alleged Contracting Misconduct and Exertion of Improper Influence Involving a Senior National Weather Service Official (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General

Based on the evidence obtained over the course of our investigation, the OIG identified numerous problems related to the retention of Senior Official as a consultant for NWS that indicate a lack of understanding on the part of multiple NOAA officials regarding key government contracting and ethics regulations.

As for the actions of Senior Official himself, the OIG concluded that he was personally and substantially involved in the procurement of his own post-retirement consulting services for NWS. This involvement implicated numerous federal laws and regulations, including the criminal conflict-of-interest statute found in 18 U.S.C. § 208. Specifically, the evidence obtained over the course of our investigation establishes that Senior Official engaged in the following while still holding his position as a federal employee:

+ Drafted and edited the applicable statement of work for his post-retirement consulting position;
+ Participated with NWS officials in setting what labor category and rates would be used to pay for his consulting services; and
+ Signed the task management plan that created the consulting position he would take upon his retirement on behalf of the contractor that would be employing him.

In addition, the evidence indicates that Senior Official took inappropriate steps to arrange for the payment by NOAA of approximately $50,000 worth of his post-retirement housing expenses. In particular, while still holding his government position, Senior Official instructed his direct subordinate to facilitate his post-retirement use of a NOAA housing contract intended to accommodate senior executives on temporary assignments to NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, even though Senior Official was not eligible for housing under this contract once he became a consultant.

Almost 15 Years after the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, DHS Still Has Not Achieved Interoperable Communications

June 10, 2015 Comments off

Almost 15 Years after the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, DHS Still Has Not Achieved Interoperable Communications (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

In November 2012, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) published an audit, DHS’ Oversight of Interoperable Communications (OIG-13-06), concluding that DHS components could not talk to each other in the event of a terrorist event or other emergency. The DHS OIG has just completed a verification review and concluded that, two and a half years later, DHS components’ inability to communicate with each other persists.

+ Full Report (PDF)

DHS OIG — TSA Can Improve Aviation Worker Vetting (Redacted)

June 9, 2015 Comments off

TSA Can Improve Aviation Worker Vetting (Redacted) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

Why We Did This
We conducted this review to identify enhancements to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) vetting of workers with access to secure areas of commercial airports for links to terrorism, criminal history, and lawful status. We also assessed the accuracy and reliability of data TSA uses for vetting.

Why We Did This
We conducted this review to identify enhancements to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) vetting of workers with access to secure areas of commercial airports for links to terrorism, criminal history, and lawful status. We also assessed the accuracy and reliability of data TSA uses for vetting.

Overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs – A 10-Year Study

June 9, 2015 Comments off

Overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs – A 10-Year Study
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

We selected for review a sample of 1,532 beneficiaries from a file of 8.9 million beneficiaries who were receiving disability payments in October 2003.

We originally reviewed these 1,532 cases for an April 2006 audit.

Our objective of this report is to study 1,532 beneficiaries who received disability benefits in October 2003 to determine the amount of overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability programs between October 2003 and February 2014 (just over a 10-year period).

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