Salazar: IG Report on Abuses in MMS is ‘Yet Another Reason to Clean House’

WASHINGTON, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 25, 2010.  A report by the Department of the Interior Inspector General on ethical lapses at the Minerals Management Service (MMS) between 2000 and 2008 highlights the importance of Interior’s ongoing agenda to reform the agency and of new ethics reforms implemented in early 2009.

The report, which is a follow-up report on an investigation that the Inspector General conducted in 2007, notes a number of violations of federal regulations and agency ethics rules by employees of MMS’ Lake Charles, LA, district office from 2000-2008. Among other things, staffers in the office were found to have accepted sport event tickets, lunches, and other gifts from oil and gas production companies and used government computers to view pornography. Some of these staffers were tasked with inspections of offshore drilling platforms located in the Gulf of Mexico.

Several of the individuals mentioned in the Inspector General’s report have resigned, been terminated, or referred for prosecution. Those individuals mentioned in the IG report for questionable behavior who are still with MMS will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a personnel review.

“The Inspector General report describes reprehensible activities of employees of MMS between 2000 and 2008,” said Secretary Salazar. “This deeply disturbing report is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of MMS and the oil and gas industry. That is why during the first ten days of becoming Secretary of the Interior I directed a strong ethics reform agenda to clean house of these ethical lapses at MMS. I appreciate and fully support the Inspector General’s strong work to root out the bad apples in MMS and we will follow through on her recommendations, including taking any and all appropriate personnel actions including termination, discipline, and referrals of any wrongdoing for criminal prosecution.”

“In addition,” Salazar said, “I have asked the Inspector General to expand her investigation to determine whether any of this reprehensible behavior persisted after the new ethics rules I implemented in 2009.”

The report of Interior’s Inspector General about activities in the Lake Charles district office follows a 2008 report from the Inspector General that identified major ethical lapses in the Lakewood, Colorado office of the MMS. In response to that report, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established new ethics standards for MMS in January, 2009, terminated the controversial royalty-in-kind program, and undertook other reforms.

Salazar has also asked the Inspector General to investigate whether there was a failure of MMS personnel to adequately enforce standards or inspect the Deepwater Horizon offshore facility and look into whether there are deficiencies in MMS policies or practices that need to be addressed to ensure that operations on the Outer Continental Shelf are conducted in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner.