The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report September 4 on its investigation into the security detail for former Administrator Scott Pruitt. The report ultimately concluded that a failure to provide proper justification for increased security for the Administrator led to an increase of $1.9 million in costs in only 11 months.
The investigation into the security costs began after the Inspector General Office received a hotline complaint alleging timekeeping irregularities and salary cap violations by members of the Protective Service Detail (PSD). The complaint specifically claimed that agents were not completing full 8 hour shifts or the 2 hour average overtime required for law enforcement availability pay. Furthermore, there was an allegation that paycap limitations set by statute may have been violated by some PSD agents. The audit initially intended to determine if there were adequate controls for scheduling, approving, and overseeing PSD employee time. The investigation then expanded to review the law enforcement authority of the agency.
The OIG report ultimately did not decide whether the EPA PSD agents have law enforcement authority, but did not that an EPA Office of Legal Counsel opinion prepared in response to recommendations in the report claims that the EPA has statutory enforcement authority for its protective officers. More importantly, the report concluded that the PSD had no procedures to assess the level of protection needed for the Administrator or for how that protection would be provided. PSD agents would work overtime without proper authorization and this led to over $106,000 in improper payments.
The OIG recommended the implementation of new policies, procedures, and guidance to define how much time PSD agents must spend investigating environmental crimes in order to obtain statutory law enforcement authority and how such time will be monitored by supervisors. It was further recommended that the EPA regularly perform a threat analysis in order to identify the appropriate level of protection for the Administrator. Finally, the OIG recommended putting in place comprehensive policies and procedures for all PSD operations. Twelve total recommendations were made and the EPA has taken or agreed to take actions for four of the recommendations, but has not responded to the other eight recommendations.
Interestingly, a podcast was released alongside the report. The podcast is under 11 minutes and a transcript is also provided. The podcast includes Tia Elbaum from the EPA OIG speaking with Jean Bloom from the EPA OIG Office of Audit and Evaluation.