Thursday, September 21, 2006

Business As Usual: The Interior Department

The Interior Department has been in the news the last week or so, and it hasn't been good news. We've learned that "anything goes" when it comes to corruption in the upper regions of the department charged with protecting the public's ownership of federal lands. Today the NY Times published a lengthy article on a law suit filed by four Interior employees over the Department's efforts to curtail their efforts to recover money from gas and oil companies that were blatantly cheating the government.

Four government auditors who monitor leases for oil and gas on federal property say the Interior Department suppressed their efforts to recover millions of dollars from companies they said were cheating the government.

The accusations, many of them in four lawsuits that were unsealed last week by federal judges in Oklahoma, represent a rare rebellion by government investigators against their own agency.

The auditors contend that they were blocked by their bosses from pursuing more than $30 million in fraudulent underpayments of royalties for oil produced in publicly owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
[Emphasis added]

When these four auditors discovered the scams being run by some oil companies, they were told to back off or higher-ups would be upset. Instead of supporting the auditors by allowing them to issue the requisite paper work (including subpoenas) to recover the money owed, the department powers undercut the auditors by refusing to allow the work to continue. Given the current regime, the reasons are pretty clear.

...By any measure, the Interior Department under President Bush has placed top priority on increasing oil and gas production in the United States. Under its business-friendly agenda, the department has increased incentives for drilling in risky areas, has speeded approvals for drilling applications and has campaigned to open more coastal areas for oil exploration.

...the agency’s own statistics indicate that revenue from auditing and enforcement plunged after President Bush took office.

From 1989 through 2001, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, auditing and other enforcement efforts generated an average of $176 million a year. But from 2002 through 2005, according to numbers that the department provided lawmakers last May, those collections averaged only $46 million.
[Emphasis added]

My, surprising.


Post a Comment

<< Home