Vitter: Beale Investigation Continues, New Scrutiny from U.S. House
May 7, 2014
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top-ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who has led the Congressional inquiry of the John Beale investigation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), today commended the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee for holding today’s hearing.
“The U.S. Senate, controlled by President Obama’s own party, refuses to conduct any meaningful oversight of the EPA, allowing the fraud and poor management to occur,” Vitter said. “A good (meaning bad) example of this enabling is that under the leadership of the Democratic chairman Barbara Boxer, the Senate EPW Committee has completely relinquished its EPA oversight obligations, failing to hold a single hearing on the Beale scandal. Thank goodness the U.S. House will take oversight action and shine a light on how the EPA’s mismanagement lead to Beale’s theft and fraud.”
One of the key issues the House OGR Committee will focus on today, which was first uncovered by Vitter’s work, is the controversy surrounding the investigation of the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS) by the EPA’s purportedly independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) that was interfered with and halted by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Additional issues that require Congressional scrutiny include:
Holding Senior Officials Accountable for Employee Misconduct – Each of Administrator McCarthy’s direct reports has now been implicated in wrongdoing. In addition to the criminal activities of John Beale, it recently became public that Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Beth Craig, contributed to the theft of nearly $200,000 in fraudulent travel vouchers and time cards submitted by Beale. According to the OIG, it is now up to current Acting Assistant Administrator for OAR, Janet McCabe, to determine the appropriate administrative remedy. Craig was not the first employee the OIG has identified for employee misconduct. Beale’s best friend and former senior EPA official, Robert Brenner, appears to have violated federal gift laws when he accepted an illegal discount on a Mercedes, yet no administrative action was taken against him.
Improper and Excessive Retention Bonuses –Between 2006 and 2013, EPA improperly awarded retention bonuses totaling $481,819 to 11 employees. There is no documentation recertifying bonuses for 10 of the employees and one employee received the bonus four years after its expiration. These poor internal controls are not isolated to the EPA, as two employees in the EPA OIG received $64,204 in retention bonuses with no documentation of recertification.
Failing to Protect Personal Information and Agency Resources – Almost half (199 out of 417) of agency issued passports were lost or stolen. The missing passports are attributable to both employees that disregard the law and their duties, as well as to an agency that has negligently compromised the security of its employees. In one instance, a box of official passports was found randomly in a run-down EPA warehouse.
“The EPA is responsible for far too many job killing regulations as it is, but they seriously need to get their own internal management in order,” Vitter said. “All their top officials have done is deny, pass the blame and cover up the massive fraud at the agency. EPA needs to take a good hard look at itself and make sure they are looking after the public’s interest, and not purely a politically driven agenda.”