At a time of record budget deficits it is beyond maddening to hear details of how the swollen, bloated federal bureaucracy continues to abuse the American taxpayer.
By J. D. Heyes
June 16, 2013
According to Government Executive, an industry trade magazine, a recent internal audit by the Environmental Protection Agency‘s office of the Inspector General found that a warehouse maintained by EPA contractors “contained secret rooms full of exercise equipment, televisions and couches.”
In addition, according to the magazine:
EPA’s inspector general found contractors used partitions, screens and piled up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000 square-foot building located in Landover, Md. The warehouse – used for inventory storage – is owned by the General Services Administration and leased to the EPA for about $750,000 per year.
Passports and vermin feces laying about
The IG’s audit, titled, “Early Warning Report: Main EPA Warehouse in Landover, Maryland, Requires Immediate EPA Attention,” was issued May 31 (http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2013/20130531-13-P-0272.pdf). Authors of the audit wrote “initial research at the EPA’s Landover warehouse raised significant concerns with the lack of agency oversight of personal property and warehouse space at the facility.”
In particular, according to the audit:
• Record-keeping at the warehouse was incomplete and inaccurate;
• The facility “was filled with considerable valuable amounts of unusable, inoperable and obsolete furniture and other items”;
• It “contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces that included such items as televisions and exercise equipment”;
• A number of security and safety hazards existed at the facility, including “unsecured personally identifiable information (such as passports)”;
• Inspectors found “deplorable conditions” there, including “corrosion, vermin feces, mold and other problems…”
Prior to the release of the audit, the EPA ordered Apex Logistics LLC, the offending contractor, to cease all work, which ensures the company’s employees no longer have access to the warehouse and surrounding site. On May 17 EPA security personnel escorted all Apex workers from the site. Also, the agency has ceased all payments on Apex’s contract.
In the time since the EPA awarded Apex its contract in May 2007, the agency has paid out about $5.3 million to the firm, most of which were labor costs. The facility’s conditions “raise questions about time charges made by warehouse employees under the contract,” said the audit.
“The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the IG audit said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pin ups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.”
‘We’ll do better, we promise’
GE magazine said the EPA has since conducted a complete inventory of the facility and its contents, and the agency says it is committed to conducting an entire agency-wide review of all warehouse and storage facility operations, to see if additional contractors have constructed man-caves and other taxpayer-financed amenities within buildings they operate. But clearly, the EPA’s IG was concerned about the agency’s lack of “oversight.”
“Our initial research at the EPA’s Landover warehouse raised significant concerns with the lack of agency oversight of personal property and warehouse space at the facility,” the audit concluded. “EPA management confirmed they had not visited the warehouse before the Office of Inspector General briefed the agency over concerns with poor oversight of the storage facility. According to Office of Management and Budget Circular A-123, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, internal controls should be designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention and prompt detection of unauthorized use or disposition of assets.”
EPA acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe pledged in a letter to the IG that he has taken “immediate, aggressive actions” in response to the findings.
“The EPA is committed to addressing the previous conditions at the warehouse and implementing institutional protections to ensure those conditions do not recur at this facility or any other used by the agency,” Perciasepe wrote.
Nothing like get caught red-handed to spur an action that needed to happen in the first place.
Sources for this article include: