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Eye on the EPA: Unearned Bonuses, Paychecks for Nothing, and Credit Card Abuse
Your Taxpayer Dollars at Work... Or Not
May 30, 2014

Fraud at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nothing new. John C. Beale, a former high-ranking official at the EPA and fake CIA agent, was convicted for stealing nearly $1 million from American taxpayers. Beale received hundreds of thousands in unearned bonuses and would skip entire days, even weeks and months from the office, while still receiving a full paycheck. While all this is outrageous, it is clear that his crimes were just the tip of the iceberg. EPA's lax internal controls and substandard management allow Agency employees to regularly take advantage of the system and benefit themselves at taxpayer expense. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantify at this stage the true amount of waste of taxpayer dollars, meaning more oversight is needed. Below are a few examples of blatant misuse of government time and funds:

 

Paychecks for Not Working

• For over 20 years, an employee claimed to be "working from home," yet produced no work while receiving a full salary. The employee was a GS-13 Step 10, which carries an annual salary of $116,901.
Status: The employee voluntarily retired during the OIG investigation, and received full benefits and pension. EPA did not reclaim any of her salary.
• Another employee was paid nearly $160,000 for two years, while residing in a nursing home and producing no work. The employee was a GS-15 Step 10, which pays an annual salary of $157,100.
Status: The employee is currently on administrative leave, but still receiving the full salary and benefits of an active employee.
• For more than two months, one employee admitted to not being physically present in the office 59% of the time he reported that he was present. During this time, the employee collected a full paycheck. This employee was a GS-13, which carries an average salary of $89,924-$116,901.
Status: The employee is currently still employed at EPA, but was suspended without pay for twelve days, placed in absent without leave status for 27.25 hours, and was required to pay back $1,149.

 

Unearned Bonuses

• In the last eight years, eleven EPA employees have received $481,819 in unauthorized bonuses.
• Additionally, two EPA OIG employees received $64,204 in bonuses without the requisite documentation.

 

Charging EPA Credit Card for Personal Expenses

• In 2012, EPA employees charged $79,254 in prohibited or improper purchases on Agency credit cards. Most egregious examples include $17,235 towards gym memberships for employees and their families, and $8,163 for gift cards. Other examples include charges for dance halls, daycare, and theater and music expenses.

 

Misuse of Federal Equipment

• In three recent cases, EPA employees were inappropriately using their government-provided computers and laptops to view pornographic materials during work.

o One case involved an employee who for the last few years spent two to six hours a day viewing pornography websites while at work. This employee is a GS-14, which carries an average annual salary of $106,263-$138,136.

Status: He is still employed and receiving full salary and benefits.

o A GS-13 employee used his EPA email account to access child pornography.

Status: The employee voluntarily retired during the course of the investigation. He pled guilty in state court and was sentenced to five years of probation.

o Another GS-13 employee was charged for two counts of child pornography stored on his EPA laptop.

Status: The employee is on administrative leave, but still receiving full salary and benefits.

o One EPA employee used his laptop to frequently access internet dating sites during work hours.

• In another case, an employee used his EPA laptop for a family business, and gave his EPA password to family members who used his government laptop at his residence, which goes against Agency safety protocol.

Status: The employee was placed on administrative leave, barred from EPA facility and allowed to resign.

• One GS-13 EPA employee was running a personal business during work hours using EPA-issued equipment.

Status: Terminated for unsatisfactory work performance.

• One Senior Executive Service employee was running a personal business out of her EPA office during work hours, including the sale of jewelry, pocketbooks, and weight loss products.

Status: Still employed and receiving full benefits and salary.

• When traveling abroad, certain EPA employees would have the Agency pay for their international calls. An independent review identified nineteen EPA employees and contractors during a six-month period that racked up $4,136.49 in international roaming charges for personal calls.
• A GS-12 EPA employee admitted to spending $1,500 of EPA funds to conduct an air sample test at his rental home to settle a personal legal dispute over the presence of mold in his home.

 

Empty Space

• In May 2013, it became public that EPA's warehouse in Landover, Maryland, was fitted with "mancaves" and safety hazards making it unfit for Agencywork. To this day, EPA spends approximately $750,000 per year on the lease for this warehouse.
• Another EPA OIG review identified 433,336 square feet in under-utilized space as of February 2012 in thirteen of sixteen facilities reviewed. This under-utilized space was estimated at costing taxpayers $21.6 million each year.

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