Tag Archives: Office of Inspector General

$6 Billion Alert. What Does The Spox Say? Goring-ding-ding-ding … “Grossly Inaccurate” But ….

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, State/OIG issued a Management Alert on Contract File Management Deficiencies at the State Department. The Alert is reportedly intended to well, alert senior Department management to the serious nature of this issue and provides “recommendations to assist in eliminating or mitigating those vulnerabilities.” The main thing is this:

“In sum, over the past 6 years, our audit work has uncovered significant contract file management deficiencies in Department contracts/task orders with a total value of more than $6 billion.”

The alert dated March 20, 2014 was addressed to the Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy and the Assistant Secretary of Administration Joyce A. Barr. The signatory of this Management Alert is not State/OIG Steve Linick but three of the four Assistant Inspector Generals of State/OIG namely: Norman P. Brown, Assistant Inspector General for AuditsRobert B. Peterson, Assistant Inspector General for Inspections;  Anna S. Gershman, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations.  Mr. Brown has been AIG since July 2013, Mr. Peterson since 2003, and Ms. Gershman since 2011.  The official response to this alert is dated March 28, 2014 from Ms. Barr who as head of the Bureau of Administration reports to Mr. Kennedy at “M.” Ms. Barr has been “A” since 2011.  Mr. Kennedy has been “M” since 2007.

Do you know why it took six years for this alert to be issued? And how is it that this alert is not addressed to the State Department’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom?

Since $6 billion is a lot of resources spent, it made a huge splash – described as “lost,” “missing,” “misplaced,” “lacks files,” or “not totally sure” where the money went.

It made the Daily Press Briefing, of course:

QUESTION: Marie, do you have any comment on the OIG report that was made public today on the $6 billion?

MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. Well, reports that there is a $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s report noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts and that these contracts’ cumulative value was about 6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and is taking steps to remedy. It’s not an accounting issue. I think it’s more like a bureaucratic issue. But it’s not that we’ve lost $6 billion, basically.

On March 20th, our new Inspector General did issue a management alert on contract file management deficiencies. The Bureau of Administration responded with a plan to address their three recommendation. Those are all posted on the IG’s web page now.

QUESTION: So how much money can you not account for if it’s not 6 billion?

MS. HARF: I have no idea.
[…]
QUESTION: But it’s way less than 6 billion? I mean, you said it was grossly inflated.

MS. HARF: Grossly inaccurate. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Okay. So do – you must have –

QUESTION: What’s a rounded-up figure –

MS. HARF: I’m not – no –

QUESTION: You must have an estimate of what it is if you have an understanding –

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not an accounting issue. It’s not that we can’t account for money. So I don’t – I’m not sure that there’s any money that we can’t account for.

QUESTION: So how is it grossly inaccurate, then?

MS. HARF: Because it’s not that there’s $6 billion we can’t account for. They said there were incomplete files –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — and that the files were – their cumulative value for those contracts was about $6 billion. So it’s a filing issue. It’s not a “we lost money” issue.

QUESTION: So you’re sure that you know where all that money is even though you acknowledge that the files are not complete?

MS. HARF: I – that’s my understanding, yes. But again, all of this is posted on the IG’s website in much more detail.

QUESTION: But –

MS. HARF: I don’t have the $6 billion.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I just – (laughter) – it sounds like it may be more of a distinction without a difference, saying it’s an accounting error, like maybe –

MS. HARF: No, because the notion that we can’t find $6 billion, right, would mean that it’s an accounting issue, that somehow we lost money that – you can understand why when people hear that they think that it means we’ve lost $6 billion. That’s my understanding that that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, regarding this IG issue, it’s like every other day something is coming out of –

MS. HARF: IG’s been very busy, apparently.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, because there was no IG before, no five years.

MS. HARF: We have a new IG, yep.

QUESTION: Yeah, it came on September. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying to figure out – I mean, when he’s like – when you say grossly and inaccurate, does he presenting these things with information or just like a number?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So the way the IG works in general – and I don’t have the details about their methodology here – is they are independent and they undertake independent reviews, some I understand that are done just routinely, some I think are in response to people submitting things to them. And in general, after the IG does a draft report they submit it to either the post overseas or the office here or the bureau that deals with it so they can have a chance to review it and comment on it and to begin implementing recommendations, if there are any that they think are helpful. So there’s a process here. Then they eventually release the final report that sometimes takes into account comments, sometimes they disagree. We have a variety of ways to respond.

QUESTION: The reason I am asking because these things are related more about overseas activities and contracts. Does the State Department officially – when you say grossly inaccurate, are you going to say what is accurate?

MS. HARF: Yes. And as I said, our response and the entire report is up on the IG’s website. I’m happy to dig into it a little bit more. But yes, we do. I mean, that’s why we give responses and they’re published.

A good excuse to post this again:

Below are some of the cases specified in the $6 billion State/OIG alert:

  • A recent OIG audit of the closeout process for contracts supporting the U.S. Mission in Iraq revealed that contracting officials were unable to provide 33 of 115 contract files requested in accordance with the audit sampling plan.  The value of the contracts in the 33 missing files totaled $2.1 billion.
  • Forty-eight of the 82 contract files received did not contain all of the documentation required by FAR 4.8. The value of the contracts in the 48 incomplete files totaled an additional $2.1 billion.
  • An ongoing OIG audit of Bureau of African Affairs contracts revealed that CORs were unable to provide complete contract administration files for any of the eight contracts that were reviewed. The value of these contracts totaled $34.8 million.
  • In two joint audits conducted with DoD OIG,5 we found that, for two task orders valued in excess of $1 billion, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs had neither ensured that the COR for the Civilian Police contract in Afghanistan established or maintained contracting files that were complete and easily accessible, nor finalized and fully implemented standard operating procedures for maintaining COR files.
  • A joint audit with SIGIR,  we reviewed four task orders from the Worldwide Personal Protective Services II contract, with an estimated total cost of $1 billion as of May 29, 2008, and found that COR files maintained in both Washington, DC, and Baghdad, Iraq, were not accessible, complete, or maintained in accordance with Department policy.
  • One investigation revealed that a contract file did not contain documentation reflecting that modifications and task orders were awarded to the company owned by the spouse of a contractor employee performing as a Contract Specialist for the contract. This contract was valued at $52 million.  (Note: We think this is the relevant case - Former State Department Contract Employee And Husband Plead Guilty To $53 Million Fraud)
  • In another investigation, OIG found that a CO falsified Government technical review information and provided the contractor with contract pricing information. The related contract file was not properly maintained and for a period of time was hidden by the CO. This contract was valued at $100 million.
  • In a third investigation, OIG found that a COR allowed the payment of $792, 782 to a contractor even though the contract file did not contain documents to support the payment. Furthermore, an additional OIG investigation revealed that the contract file was missing a COR appointment letter required by FAR 1.602-2 (d).
  • COR files for a $2.5 million contract lacked status reports and a tally of the funds expended and remaining on the contract. OIG discovered other instances in which contract files lacked contract performance documentation and COR appointment and training certification; CORs failed to maintain technical information and performance records needed to monitor contractor performance; and COR filing systems were disorganized.

 

The Management Alert issued concludes that “The failure to enforce those requirements exposes the Department to significant financial risk and makes OIG oversight more difficult. It creates conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file. It impairs the ability of the Department to take effective and timely action to protect its interests, and, in turn, those of taxpayers. Finally, it limits the ability of the Government to punish and deter criminal behavior.”

If these contract documents were never completed, what is there to file? If these were filed but misplaced, how do you find files that date back to 2008 for instance on the Worldwide Personal Protective Services II contract in Iraq? Also, without accurate files how do we even know that “It’s not a “we lost money” issue?” 

This is the second Management Alert issued by State/OIG under Steve Linick this year. We have not been able to locate previous management alerts issued by any of his predecessors as Inspector Generals of the State Department.  Perhaps they’re available, not just to the public. But this scrub down is smart.  Every new sheriff should do it. We’re also looking forward to the next alert. It’ll tell us where the new IG is looking under the hood.

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Related items:

-03/31/14   Management Alert – Contract File Management Deficiencies (MA-A-0002)  [1768 Kb]  Posted online April 3, 2014

-01/13/14   Mgmt Alert on OIG Findings of Significant and Recurring Weaknesses in the Dept of State Info System Security Program (MA-A-0001)  [6298 Kb]  Posted online January 16, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Counting Beans, Follow the Money, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, State Department

U.S. Embassy Bahrain: “Seat of the Pants” Leadership and Management Mess

– Domani Spero

State/OIG posted its March 31, 2014 Inspection Report of the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. While there are some pockets of sunshine in this report, it comes across like post is a huge management mess. Post is headed by career diplomat, Ambassador Thomas Krajeski who assumed charge in October 2011. According to the embassy’s website, Stephanie Williams arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission in Manama in June 2010.  The current Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Pounds arrived at post in March 2013.

The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and 23, 2013, and in Manama, Bahrain, between September 25 and October 19, 2013. Ambassador Marianne Myles (team leader), Michael Hurley (deputy team leader), Alison Barkley, Beatrice Camp, Roger Cohen, David Davison, Shawn O’Reilly, Keith Powell II, Richard Sypher, Joyce Wong, and Roman Zawada conducted the inspection.

Post Snapshot:



Embassy Manama is a medium-sized mission with 80 U.S. direct hires, 23 U.S. local hires and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members who oversee a $14 million budget and manage 78 leased properties. The embassy building opened in 1991 and is nearing capacity. Manama is one of the Middle East missions that allow families, and assignments there continue to be 3-year tours. Continuing demonstrations and attacks against government and commercial targets have severely restricted the movement of staff and taken a toll on their morale.

Key Judgments

  • The embassy has two competing policy priorities: to maintain strong bilateral military cooperation and to advance human rights. The Ambassador has forged strong relationships with U.S. military leaders based in Bahrain to promote common goals.
  • The Ambassador’s failure to maintain a robust planning and review process has led to confusion and lack of focus among some staff members and sidelined economic/commercial activities and public diplomacy programs.
  • The embassy has not developed a comprehensive strategy to improve the Ambassador’s negative media image. The Ambassador has agreed to increase his participation in noncontroversial programs and events with potential to generate positive publicity.
  • Public affairs activities suffer from a lack of strategic planning.
  • The mission produces well-sourced and timely political reporting. Economic reporting has been sparse. The embassy does not have a strategy to support the President’s National Export Initiative.
  • Management controls processes are weak across the board, and the embassy should make resolving them a priority. The management officer has been given other duties that prevent him from giving his full time and energy to addressing these weaknesses. A lack of transparency in management policies exacerbates low morale.
  • The embassy and the Department of State have not implemented local labor law provisions that went into effect in September 2012 and have not made a decision on a proposed 2011 locally employed staff bonus.
  • The front office does not give adequate attention to mentoring, especially first-and second-tour employees.
  • The embassy’s innovative practice of providing mobile Internet routers in welcome kits makes the transition process for new employees more efficient.

You’ve got to wonder what’s else is going on when the embassy’s website displays this white space despite its DCM’s arrival at post about a year ago.

 

Screen shot, US Embassy Manama

Screen Capture, US Embassy Manama – March 28, 2014

More details below extracted from the OIG report.

Leadership and Management

 – Ambassador:

  • The Ambassador has forged a strong relationship with the heads of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command to promote consistent U.S. policy messaging. He is respected by many Bahraini officials and is well liked by mission staff. However, his lack of access to some key government officials, his poor media image, and the lack of an effective strategy to address these issues have created friction with principal officials in Washington.
  • 

The Ambassador has not focused sufficiently on planning processes and implementation as a way to keep staff focused during turbulent times. His belief that reactive “seat of the pants” leadership works best in Bahrain’s challenging environment has left staff members who do not have access to him on a regular basis confused about mission goals. Disdain for planning has trickled down to section heads, leaving most sections without the tools to make the best use of their programs and resources. During the inspection, the Ambassador endorsed a new planning effort launched by the deputy chief of mission (DCM) to create a broad-based plan of action for all sections and agencies. The Ambassador needs to remain personally involved in this effort.
  • Lack of a clear commercial strategy has impeded the Ambassador’s focus on export promotion. He should impart a vision to the economic/commercial section that will involve him in business issues, including making greater use of the Free Trade Agreement.
  • The Ambassador is intensely concerned about the security of mission employees, and they noted this favorably in OIG questionnaires. Despite that focus, he undermined the emergency action committee by allowing the former DCM to remain in a leased DCM residence in an unsafe red zone when other staff members living there were required to move. This decision required costly security measures to protect her and her family. When the new DCM arrived and moved into a new DCM residence, the Ambassador encouraged him to continue looking for yet another DCM residence, despite a 7-year lease and security upgrades that were already in place. The Ambassador’s practice of encouraging staff members to seek new housing is contrary to Department of State (Department) standard operating procedures.
  • 

The Ambassador has a well-received practice of walking around the embassy and dropping in on sections. He converses with staff on a frequent basis in the chancery cafeteria and at community functions. He holds “welcome breakfasts” at his own expense for newly arrived U.S. employees. However, he rarely meets with mission members in formal settings, such as town halls or LE staff committee meetings. There is a desire within the mission for greater engagement by the Ambassador.
  • The OIG team noted anomalies between the Ambassador’s calendar and his time and attendance reports and brought them to his attention through a formal memorandum with an itemized attachment. The OIG team noted that having elected a senior Foreign Service pay plan, the Ambassador is required to account for all leave, as outlined in ALDAC 13 State 26982. The Ambassador challenged two of the team’s assertions in the itemized attachment but declined to discuss other discrepancies, especially personal time spent out of the office on workdays. The issue merits further review, including examining time and attendance records and other documentation.
  • The Ambassador has had a difficult time with the government-dominated media since his arrival. Early in his tenure he wrote some broad policy articles for the newspapers and conducted television interviews. Press reaction was negative and included personal criticism of him. Soon after, the Ambassador reduced his press exposure. The Ambassador agreed to consider OIG team suggestions that he increase his participation in noncontroversial events and programs as a way to gain positive publicity and improve his public image, as well as the image of the United States. He agreed to attempt blogging and to engage first-and second-tour (FAST) employees in the effort. He also agreed to work with the public affairs staff to draw up a media plan, including his engagement in cultural programs.
  • The Ambassador chose not to engage with the OIG team in the exit brief process that is the standard final part of a mission inspection. His decision deprived the embassy of the opportunity to offer clarifications and raise questions directly with the OIG team.

Leadership and Management – Deputy Chief of Mission:

  • The DCM has a sufficient host country network and has served effectively as chargé d’affaires. The DCM meets regularly with section and agency heads. However, he does not provide adequate support and guidance to FAST employees, the LE staff committee, the community liaison office (CLO), or eligible family member (EFM) employees. He also does not move about the embassy enough. Several employees reported never seeing him outside his office. The DCM agreed to circulate in the chancery more often.
  • The DCM has not focused sufficiently on key management issues, including several that affect morale. Lack of clarity in EFM hiring, LE staff hiring and promotions, and housing board decisions have led to perceptions throughout the community of favoritism and unfairness. In addition, the DCM supports allowing employees to move upon request, regardless of the reason, as a way of boosting morale. This approach leads to waste and does not conform to 15 FAM policies on housing.
  • DCM needs to devote more attention to the FAST mentoring program. His approach has left the program largely without guidance. The DCM has not led an effort to establish a new structure for the program, identify a FAST volunteer to chair the program, and meet regularly with the group. The OIG team encouraged leadership and FAST employees to consider best practices used by other embassies with strong FAST programs.
  • 

The DCM has neglected some personnel duties, such as discussing performance expectations with direct-hire employees for whom he is the rating or reviewing officer.
  • The OIG team reviewed consular accountability and found that the consular chief is reviewing subordinate officers’ adjudications properly. However, the DCM is not reviewing those of the consular chief. He should do so.

Econ Section

[T]he volume of economic reporting has been low, with approximately 1 economic cable for every 10 drafted by the political unit. The lack of front office attention to economic matters has left the economic unit with little guidance on issues of potential interest to Washington. The frequent diversion of the economic specialist’s attention to political issues, while the political specialist performs backup protocol duties, has also hurt economic reporting.

Public Affairs Section

The public affairs section has an experienced and dedicated staff conducting innovative programming and responding to intense front office interest in media reporting.
[…]
Post public diplomacy programs would have greater impact if they were part of an overall strategy that included greater participation by the Ambassador. The public affairs officer (PAO) has not directed the section in establishing policies, defining goals, and prioritizing plans to achieve mission objectives. Internal processes for dealing with grants, speakers, and exchanges are not consistent, clearly understood, or readily accessible. The section posts only limited information about its processes and activities on its SharePoint site.
[…]
The government-controlled press is frequently highly critical of the Ambassador but the embassy is cautious about using social media to counter this, concerned that doing so often draws negative comments. The public affairs section posts the Ambassador’s public appearances on Facebook but does not generally tweet his activities. The embassy does not use blogs. Officers adept at social media can help use these tools to improve the Ambassador’s public image and to correct misinformation about U.S. policies.

Management Overview 



There is a need for better management planning across the board, including for staffing, real property acquisition, office space, housing, safety, and maintenance. Management controls are inadequate; in the procurement section, weak controls constitute a serious deficiency. The section requires outside help. Customer satisfaction scores from OIG questionnaires for most support services were low, reflecting a lack of basic processes and standard operating procedures. Embassy Manama should make improving management operations and internal controls a priority.

General Services Office

The general services office suffers from poor communication up and down the chain of command. An accurate arrivals and departures list would enhance the efficiency of all general services sections. The embassy’s internship program is not adequately coordinated with the general services office, creating adverse effects on housing, motor pool, and travel services.

Customs and Shipping 

The customs and shipping staff consists of one LE employee who expedites shipments and has a large contact base at the port and at the airport. This employee has not been able to take leave, even when he has scheduled it well in advance, because of emergencies that require his presence. Sound management requires backup for each critical function.

Human Resources



Work and quality of life questionnaires administered by the OIG team report scores significantly below prior embassy averages in human resources support and services, administration of the awards program, and fairness of family member hiring. Poor leadership, lack of adequate processes, and the absence of transparency and communication have hampered the staff. The human resources officer needs to reinvigorate the section and regain the trust of the mission’s direct-hire employees, LE staff, and eligible family members.

Inspectors encountered a number of shortcomings in the office. The retail price survey had not been completed since 2009. Personnel cables were not being sent using the proper template and each message was being created from scratch. Supervisors were not being notified 6 months prior to LE subordinates’ retirement dates. Staffing patterns contained numerous mistakes.



Foreign Service National Issues

  • Inspectors met with the LE staff committee, whose members expressed concerns about compensation and benefit issues, hiring policy, discrimination and favoritism, unfair dismissals, and a lack of cultural sensitivity displayed by some direct-hire employees. They said their primary points of contact are the management officer and the human resources officer. They occasionally have access to the DCM, but not to the Ambassador. It would be helpful for embassy management to respond to LE staff concerns in writing.
  • The second benefit issue relates to changes to the local compensation plan brought about by a new Bahraini labor law implemented in September 2012. The law grants additional benefits to Bahraini employees in the areas of annual and sick leave, maternity benefits, and pilgrimage leave. As with the bonus, too much time was wasted—this time trying to get an English translation of the labor law that was issued in Arabic. The embassy sent the plan to the Office of Overseas Employment in March 2013; it remains under review.

Cultural Sensitivity

The LE committee cited several examples of culturally insensitive behavior by American employees. It is unclear whether the words and actions were spiteful or occurred because the employees lacked knowledge of Bahraini culture and norms. To guard against such events, it would be helpful for the embassy to incorporate a cultural sensitivity component into its orientation programs for U.S. direct-hire and locally employed staff.

Money Matters

COM Residence:  The chief of mission residence costs $272,000 per year (approximately $22,500 per month) to rent. It is one of the Department’s most expensive short-term leased properties, qualifying it for consideration to purchase. The embassy has requested the Department also consider purchase of a DCM residence and a Marine security guard residence.

Language Designated Positions:  Embassy Manama has 10 language designated positions: the DCM; 4 political/economic officers, 2 consular officers, 2 public diplomacy officers, and the management officer. As half the population of Bahrain is expatriate, many from South Asia, the common language of the country is English. Six of the 10 officers in language designated positions reported to inspectors that they do not use Arabic in their jobs. The number of language designated positions makes finding qualified candidates for embassy jobs more challenging. Moreover, it costs the Department approximately $500,000 to train an officer to speak proficient Arabic.



Management Controls: Management controls at Embassy Manama are inadequate. Despite the embassy’s positive responses to the OIG functional questionnaires, and the positive information provided by the regional bureau, the OIG team determined the breakdown in procurement processes reaches the level of a significant deficiency. 

Though adequately staffed, Embassy Manama paid 2,000 hours of overtime compensation to general services employees and 1,000 hours to facilities management employees in FY 2013. According to the Foreign Affairs Handbook, (FAH) 4 FAH-3 H-525.1-2 the management officer must establish controls for accurate and timely recording and reporting of time and attendance. The mission delegates responsibility for overtime authorization to each section supervisor and time and attendance to the financial management officer. Nobody monitors LE staff overtime, resulting in anomalies and improper overtime approvals.

The report is available to read here (pdf).

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IERs: We’re Not Doing ‘Em Anymore, We’re Doing Something Better — Oh, Smashing, Groovy!

– Domani Spero

We’ve been harping about the termination of the OIG prepared report cards (officially called Inspector’s Evaluation Reports) for ambassadors and senior embassy officials. For career diplomats, these reports used to be sent to the Director General of the Foreign Service (DGHR) for inclusion in the employees’ official personnel files (OPFs) and were accessible to members of the FS Promotion Boards.  For political appointees, these reports were previously sent to the White House.

The OIG spox told us last week that “Although OIG no longer produces IERs, senior official performance issues that were previously addressed in IERs are now addressed transparently in OIG inspection reports, which are available to all stakeholders.” We’ll have to wait and see what this transparency looks like. We must say, however, that even if  this were true, the fact remains that “senior official performance issues” will no longer be included in the information available to the Promotion Boards. So basically that DCM over there who caused the resignation/retirement/curtailment of FSOs from post for workplace bullying may be penalized in an OIG report that when released to the public may/may not have redactions, but will suffer no consequence when promotion time comes.

Yup, we’re beating this dead horse to death because …

It is true that Inspector’s Evaluation Reports  (IERs) are “non-public documents processed internally within the Department and used for performance evaluations of senior Department leadership”but as we’ve blogged last week, some of these cases do end up in the Foreign Service Grievance Board. And one of these IERs was published in full (stripped of identifying details) in the official record of proceeding.  The consequence in this 2004 case, included the curtailment of the second highest ranking embassy official from post, a year before the scheduled conclusion of his tour. The official subsequently grieved the IER, prepared following a post inspection conducted by State/OIG, alleging that it “did grievous injury to [his] professional reputation and career prospects through distorted and defamatory allegations of managerial negligence.”  In dealing with the various arguments by official/grievant that the IER was false and inaccurate, the Grievance Board found that the official/grievant “failed to shoulder his burden of proof” and denied it in its entirety.

The following IER exhibit is extracted from FSGB 2004-055:

 {Grievant} has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at {Host City} at perhaps the most demanding time in this embassy’s history.  The political and security situation in the nation is highly dynamic, as {blank} insurgents use violence in their efforts to undermine the government, impeding economic development and regional stability.  Tourism has dropped, the safety of remaining Americans has become a constant concern and U.S. engagement with the government of {Host Country} has increased exponentially.  The new U.S. program of military assistance has jumped to $20 million and the budget for longer-term economic and social assistance is at an all-time high of $42 million.  The expansion in U.S. engagement has been matched by dramatic growth of embassy staff.  Over the past year, there has been an increase of more than 50% in State Department American staff – primarily junior officers and specialists in the consular and administrative sections.  This situation demands strong, engaged leadership.  Unfortunately, the management of Embassy {Host City} has not risen sufficiently to meet this challenge.

The ambassador delegated authority for overseeing overall operations of this mission to {Grievant}.  This has included chairing country team meetings, meeting regularly with heads of mission elements, clearing and editing the majority of cable traffic and handling personnel and management problems.  {Grievant} has also had to take center stage in coordinating the assessments of the {blank} threat and communicating and defending that assessment to Washington.  Perhaps, this was too much delegation.  The result has been a daunting workload and a time management problem, with key DCM functions neglected.

Matching the ambassador’s focus on our foreign policy agenda, {Grievant} has worked hard to advance our goals of increased economic and security support to the government of {Host Country} to help combat the {blank} insurgency.  He has been instrumental in helping craft U.S. policy and has carefully coordinated the efforts of embassy sections and agencies working on this priority.  He has also engaged effectively with the {blank} and {blank} embassies to garner their support. {Grievant} worked closely and successfully with the RSO and ADMIN to press Washington for the resources to relocate the vulnerable American Center.  In addition, he successfully worked with the government to overcome legal obstacles to security upgrades at The [sic] embassy’s downtown compound. and [sic] problems related to visas for {Host Country} residents immigrating to the United States.  These are considerable achievements, but they came at a high price.  {Grievant} has generally remained subsumed in policy activities to the detriment of basic management of the embassy.  Tied to his desk, he has not been a visible presence around the mission and has failed to address some key personnel and management problems effectively.

While many staff declared great respect for {Grievant}’ deep experience in {region} and his political skills, their overall assessment of him as a manager and leader was poor.  He received low scores in most categories of OIG questionnaires assessing leadership and direction, with particular weakness in coordination, vision/goal setting, engagement, feedback, judgment and attentiveness to morale.  His lowest mark was in the area of problem solving.

Morale has suffered and employee relations have been strained due to management shortcomings and the intimidating atmosphere some staff face at post.  {Grievant} is not the intimidator.  Quite the contrary, he was appalled at this situation and had consoled officers who were the victims of this behavior.  He did try to diffuse these problems somewhat, but did not deal with them sufficiently.  Poor management practices and the abusive behavior by some key officers to American and local staff were allowed to persist.

Finally, {Grievant} has not provided necessary guidance and mentoring of the many junior officers at this mission.  Indeed, he claimed that – having not had State Department training for a decade – he only became aware of the extent of his responsibilities for them earlier this year, at a management conference in {Embassy}.  Due to the poor management of the post and the abusive atmosphere noted above – some of these junior officers told OIG inspectors that they were now questioning whether they would remain in the Foreign Service.

So now, no more IERs, best try the um …

Pardon me?  You expect that the members of the Promotion Panels will now dig up the unredacted OIG reports when they deliberate the promotability of senior employees?  As Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery used to say, “Oh, smashing, groovy!”  

For reports on performances with redactions, see  the previous OIG reports on US Embassy Islamabad and Constituent Posts, and US Embassy Lebanon; for reports on performances with little or no redactions, see the ones on Luxembourg, Malta, Kenya.

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State/OIG: No More Ambassador Report Cards Cuz They’re Not as Sexy as Debarments?

– Domani Spero

Update, February 28, 2014, 4:23 pm -This blog post has been updated to include a comment from State/OIG spokesman Douglas Welty.

In late January, we learned that the State Department’s Office of Inspector General  no longer issue “report cards” for ambassadors and senior officials during inspections at overseas missions. (See State/OIG Terminates Preparation of Report Cards for Ambassadors and Sr. Embassy Officials).

The Inspector General Office confirmed to us that the practice of preparing these Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) ended in April 2013.

According to the State/OIG, the official reason for ending the IERs is as follows; let’s call this Razón número #1:

It was an OIG decision, in part based on the points mentioned below that we will continue to comment on executive direction in the course of each inspection in the published report, and because we have seen progress with implementation of the recommendations in the memo report mentioned before (the 360 reviews noted in our 2012 memo report http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/198810.pdf).

The OIG told Congress in oh, 2009, that the overriding purpose for the IERs is “to assure that upper level post management is not immune to criticism as a result of their positions of authority and physical distance from their own supervisors.”  The OIG was supposed to also issue “corrective” IERs for other employees, “when information surfaces that the EERs for such employees are inaccurate, either in a positive or negative direction.”

After we blogged about this, we received the following explanation from an unofficial source with connections to the relevant office. Here’s Razón número #2:

“The reason OIG stopped writing evaluations on Ambassadors, DCMs, and senior management is because the Department could not successfully challenge grievances by those Ambs, etc.  Because the evaluations were based on anonymous comments, grievance boards would throw them out.”

So the issue here is accountability versus due process, is it?

According to MSPB, due process under the Constitution requires that a tenured federal employee be provided “written notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the employer’s evidence, and an opportunity to present his side of the story.” Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 546 (1985). The Court has described “the root requirement” of the Due Process Clause as being “that an individual be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest.” Id. at 542 (emphasis in original). This requires a “meaningful opportunity to invoke the discretion of the decision maker” before the personnel action is effected. Id. at 543.

But as the cases below show, when these IERs are scrupulously done, the Grievance Board hold that the State Department is justified in keeping them on file.  We thought, it might be useful to dig up a few of these IER cases that ended up in the Foreign Service Grievance Board.

Here is a 1987 Foreign Service Grievance Board case G-093(7):

The inspectors’ Memorandum, Report M-3 laid out in detail what they called “serious problems related to the performance of the [title], [grievant], ” and urged that [grievant's] next post, [post], be warned.  The memorandum pointed to: “(A) difficulty in establishing her authority among junior officers and the FSN staff; (B) inability to resolve a festering personnel problem caused by the marginal performance of one FSN; (C) problems in organizing “her own work so as to prevent dysfunctional slowdowns in ; (D) difficulty in managing the system.”

This was issued as an IG memorandum, and the career counselor (or what you would call the Career Development Officer now) informed the onward assignment post that the inspectors had found grievant’s performance in country X wanting.  The FSGB notes in its decision that “had the inspectors’ findings been prepared in the form of an Inspector’s Evaluation Report instead of a memorandum report, copies would have gone only to [grievant], to her performance file, and to the rating inspector’s file.”

The Board find that “grievant has not shown that the criticisms of her performance in the inspection memorandum or the EER were false or that she should be promoted.” They also  find that a report of her performance problems should not have been sent to her next post.  The FSGB decision directed the Department to instruct Embassy [post] to destroy any existing copies of the [year], letter concerning grievant from his career development counselor.  It denied other relief requested by FSO-grievant.

A couple of examples of grievance cases related to IERs that were thrown out and the grievant prevailed:

FSGB Case No. 2008-018

Grievant, a mid-level career FSO, challenged an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) assessing his performance during a 10-month period when he was chargé d’affaires at [Post].  The IER positively appraised grievant’s overall performance under difficult circumstances, but, based on questionnaire responses from and interviews with a “significant cross-section of American and local employees,” the IER concluded that grievant was prone to outbursts of anger that intimidated some of his staff.  Grievant’s efforts to discover the names and statements of the sources of this criticism were refused by the agency because the employees had been guaranteed confidentiality.  Grievant alleged that the IER was “falsely prejudicial, inaccurate, and highly unjust,” since it was based on a distorted and selective use of comments from a small number of dissatisfied personnel and on anonymous sources he could not challenge and because he had not been counseled regarding the performance criticized.

The Board held:  “Grievant met his burden of proof, establishing that critical comments in an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) were inaccurate and of a falsely prejudicial character.  The agency may not rely on undisclosed anonymous or confidential sources without any independently verifiable evidence in the record to corroborate the criticism in the IER where grievant presents material evidence that directly contradicts that criticism.  The grievance was remanded for the parties to address the question whether grievant would have been promoted in [Year] or [Year], had the erroneous IER not been in his performance folder.”

FSGB 2008-012

The IER stated eleven negative factual findings or conclusions regarding grievant’s managerial performance as head of the [Named Section] during the evaluation period covered by the IER.  These deficiencies consisted, inter alia, of grievant lacking the interpersonal and leadership skills needed to mentor and guide entry level officers (ELOs) and causing or contributing to the resignation or early departure of ELOs in the [Named Section].  The findings and conclusions contained in a “corrective” Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) violate grievant’s rights either because they are contrary to the preponderance of the record evidence, they impermissibly have as their basis sources that remain anonymous or confidential, or they violate grievant’s substantive right to be counseled with an opportunity to improve.

FSGB directed the Department “to expunge the IER in its entirety from grievant’s Official Performance File (OPF) and if grievant has been low-ranked as a result of the inclusion of this IER in his OPF, the Department is directed to rescind such low rankings.”

Some examples of grievance cases related to IERs where the grievance was denied and the Board decided that the State Department was justified in keeping the IERs on file:

FSGB Case No. 2010-031

Grievant, an FS-01 officer serving as [Officer] in [Host Country], challenged an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) assessing his performance during a 10 month period.  Mr. [Grievant] urged that the IER be expunged from his OPF because the IER process was procedurally flawed and unfair, five specific statements in the IER were falsely prejudicial and inaccurate, and he was not counseled during the evaluation period or given an opportunity to improve his performance.  If the IER were to remain in his file, it would jeopardize any future promotion.  Based on confidential interviews and questionnaires obtained from fifteen embassy staff members by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the IER concluded that grievant was partly responsible for some embassy officers’ consideration of curtailment from the post, that the grievant had trouble making decisions, that he incurred unnecessary delays because of excessive attention to detail, and that he missed deadlines.  Grievant was held responsible for several problems associated with his failure to focus on internal embassy management.

The grievance board denied this grievance in its entirety.  The FSGB held that “Grievant failed to meet his burden of proof to establish that an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) was “falsely prejudicial and contain[ed] inaccurate, misleading statements obtained through improper methodology.”  The agency was justified in relying on anonymous, confidential sources which formed the basis of the criticisms within the IER.  Such information was independently corroborated and verified through questionnaires solicited from the same embassy staff that had provided the confidential information.  Grievant was provided with these subsequently obtained questionnaires, including the names of staff members who completed them.  Grievant failed to produce evidence that would cast doubt on the agency’s evidence, nor did he carry his burden to demonstrate that the IER process was in violation of due process or that he was not counseled appropriately. “

FSGB Case No. 2004-064

Grievant asserted that an IER prepared while he was Chargé at a post included false and inaccurate criticisms of his management style, was prepared in violation of the Department’s regulations, and was based on anonymous information from unverified sources.  He alleged that the Inspection team leader’s ill will toward him resulted in an unfairly biased and unbalanced evaluation.  He claimed that the low ranking he received by the 2004 Selection Board (SB) was based on the IER, and was procedurally defective because the SB did not adhere to the precepts when it low ranked him.

The Board denied the grievant’s appeal.  The FSGB held that “(1) An Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) concerning grievant by an OIG team leader was prepared in accordance with applicable procedures and regulations; grievant failed to carry his burden of proving bias of the team leader.  (2) Consideration of the IER as the principal basis for a low ranking by a selection board was proper and in accordance with the precepts.”

FSGB 2004-55

Grievant appealed the Department of State’s (agency) denial of his grievance centered on an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) prepared while he was serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission at an American Embassy.  He alleges that the agency violated applicable law and regulation by the inclusion in his Official Performance Folder (OPF) of a materially false and inaccurate IER.  The IER, prepared following a post inspection conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), “did grievous injury to [his] professional reputation and career prospects through distorted and defamatory allegations of managerial negligence.”

The appeal was denied in its entirety.  The Board found that grievant had not provided persuasive evidence on argument in support of his contention that the inspection “was intentionally biased and consciously violated the letter and spirit of the OIG mandate and some FAM regulations,” and failed to overcome the presumption of regularity that attaches to the official acts of public officials.  This presumption, established by the federal courts, “supports the official acts of public officers, and in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that they have properly discharged their official duties.”  Furthermore, specific evidence is required to overcome the presumption that public officers have executed their responsibility properly.

FSGB 2004-056

{Grievant}, an FE-MC officer with the Department of State (Department, agency), appeals the agency’s denial of his grievance concerning an Inspector’s Evaluation Report (IER) that he received while serving as the U.S. Ambassador in {Host City, Host Country}.  He contends that the IER is inaccurate and false, and damaged his personal and professional reputation and career prospects.  The IER, while lauding grievant’s efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy initiatives, criticized his management skills.  For example, the IER found that some officers characterized grievant’s loss of temper, occasional yelling and inattention to management issues as dysfunctional and unprofessional.  Moreover, junior officers found his conduct intimidating and some questioned whether they would remain in the Foreign Service.

The Department maintains that the IER is accurate and that it was written and issued in accordance with applicable regulations.  Because it received letters of support for grievant, some from junior officers expressing second thoughts about what they had told the inspectors, the agency queried other officers who visited the Embassy at the time of or just after the inspection.  The latter officers confirmed the low morale and lack of proper attention to management issues that led to the critical IER.  The Board held that grievant failed to carry his burden of proof.  On many of the issues raised, grievant simply disagreed with the inspectors’ findings without offering any evidence to the contrary.  On other issues, evidence of grievant’s inappropriate behavior was documented by named witnesses, documents of record, and in some cases his own admissions. The grievance appeal was denied.

We hate to think that the State Department with all its smart people is unable to balance accountability with due process and simply gave up on this.  Folks, you’ve litigated the use of official letterhead, in the past; isn’t this more important than the alleged misuse of official letterhead?

Then, while we were not looking, we received an owl delivery with the following howler from Diagon Alley. Enter Razón número #3:

“Don’t hold your breath–IERs went away BECAUSE of AFSA, not despite it.  New IG is mostly interested in cost-savings and debarments (wants to compete with SIGIR/SIGAR); considers leadership/management issues to be Department’s concern, not IG’s; and has been convinced by Hill/GAO that FS experience is problematic.  Inspection division doesn’t know what hit it.”

Oh dear, doesn’t that make you feel totally like  …

via http://replygif.net/127

via replygif.net

So — which do you think again  is the most feasible reason the Inspector General no longer conduct IERs for ambassadors and senior embassy officials?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch La Razón by the toe.
If it hollers,well, say “boo!”
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Damn, my whole brain is crying; yours, too?

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After this blog post went online, the State/OIG spokesman Douglas Welty sent us a statement, published in full below:

In response to your most recent blog posting,” State/OIG: No More Ambassador Report Cards Cuz They’re Not as Sexy as Debarments?”<http://diplopundit.net/2014/02/28/stateoig-no-more-ambassador-report-ca
rds-cuz-theyre-not-as-sexy-as-debarments/>  transparency is a key component of effective IG oversight.  The Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs), which OIG would produce at the Department’s request, were non-public documents processed internally within the Department and used for performance evaluations of senior Department leadership.  Although OIG no longer produces IERs, senior official performance issues that were previously addressed in IERs are now addressed transparently in OIG inspection reports, which are available to all stakeholders.  OIG’s proper oversight role is to use its reports to alert Department management and other stakeholders (e.g., Congress and taxpayers) so that the Department takes proper management action to address them.

Mr. Welty is a great spox but brain’s still crying.  Next week, we’ll have a publicly sourced exhibit on IERs.

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State/OIG Employees Received CIGIE Awards for Exceptional Performance

– Domani Spero

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s (CIGIE) 16th Annual Inspector General Community awards were presented in Washington, DC, at the Constitution Center Auditorium on November 15, 2013. We’ve seen this news from last year, but we were waiting for a photo to put up with it; one was recently made available online:

Photo via state.gov/oig

Anna Gershman, Assistant IG/Investigations, accepts the award on behalf of Karen Pacheco from CIGIE Chair Phyllis Fong (right) and Lynne McFarland, Vice Chair (left). Photo via state.gov/oig

The following Department of State OIG employees received CIGIE awards for their exceptional work and performance:

In recognition of exceptional work in conducting an audit of the Worldwide Protective Services Contract for Baghdad Movement Security that contributed to improved efficiency and contract management and identified about $362 million in cost savings. (see audit report here).

    • Yvonne Athanasaw, Office of Audits
    • Amy Lowenstein, Office of Audits
    • Kelly Moon, Office of Audits
    • Jim Pollard, Office of Audits
    • Lloyd Taylor, Office of Audits

In recognition of exceptional performance in establishing a highly effective Suspension and Debarment Program within the OIG and the Department of State, which resulted in successfully safeguarding U.S. Government interests.

    • Karin Pacheco, Office of Investigations

 

Congratulations!

A few years ago, Senator Clair McCaskill complained about the State Department’s poor record of contractor debarment: “The State Department is the second largest Department responsible for contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan behind the Department of Defense. During a four year period, from 2005 through 2008, the State Department awarded contracts to 89,593 companies and debarred only one company. In 2005, 2006 and 2008, the State Department did not debar a single company or individual” (see pdf).

In 2012, Federal Times reported that contractor suspensions (banning a company from receiving new contracts for up to 18 months), at the State Department increased from none in 2009 to 19 halfway into fiscal 2012.  At USAID, which apparently scarcely used suspension and debarment in the past, took 63 suspension or debarment actions in 2011.

This is a positive development. The next step is for the list of suspended and debarred contractors to be made publicly available online.

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Kerry Swears-in Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary for Management, Good News for State/OIG — Wait, What?

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– Domani Spero

On January 30, 2014, Secretary Kerry sworn-in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. Ms. Higginbottom is the third appointee to this position. She was preceded by Jack Lew , now Treasury Secretary and Tom Nides  who is now back at Morgan Stanley.

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Ssecretary Kerry made some remarks at her swearing-in ceremony (excerpt below):

Heather now is the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  That’s a statement in and of itself, as you have all just recognized, and it’s important.  But I want you to know that no one ever said to me about this job, “I’m so glad you found a woman.”  They have said to me, “I’m really glad you gave this job to Heather,” or “Heather is the right person for this job.”  And we are here because – I know many of you have worked with Heather either in her role on Capitol Hill or over at OMB.  Some of you worked on the campaign trail with her in 2004 and 2008, where she served in 2008 as President Obama’s Policy Director.  Many of you worked with her in the White House where she was serving as the Deputy Director for the Domestic Policy Council and then Deputy Director of OMB.

Ms. Higginbottom gave her own remarks (excerpt):

For me, balancing our presence in Asia, to making peace in Syria, to rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, to embracing our friends in this hemisphere, to the many crises we cannot begin to predict, the people at the State Department and USAID will confront tremendous challenges and opportunities in 2014 and beyond.  In this role, I’ll share in the global responsibility for U.S. foreign policy, but I’ll also seek to drive institutional reforms.
[...]
A top priority for my team will be working to ensure our posts and people are safe and secure.  We need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake, and that means we must constantly improve the way we protect our people and our posts.  I’ll also work to ensure that we use taxpayer resources wisely and efficiently.  As you all know, America’s investment in diplomacy and development is critical to our global leadership, to our national security, and to our nation’s prosperity.  It’s one of the very best investments we can make for our country and it’s the right thing to do.

But we must do everything we can to increase the return on that investment.  That’s why I’ll focus on management reform and innovation.

Excellent!  There’s a small matter that folks might want to bring up to the new D/MR’s attention in terms of reform — a recent change on the Foreign Affairs Manual concerning State/OIG, updated just weeks after the nominee for OIG was announced:

1 FAM 053.2-2 Under Secretary for Management (M)
(CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013)
The Under Secretary for Management (M) is the Secretary’s designated top management official responsible for audit and inspection follow-up and the Secretary’s designee for impasse resolution when Department officials do not agree with OIG recommendations for corrective action. See 1 FAM 056. 1, Impasse paragraph.

Look at this nice org chart for the DOD IG:

via DODIG.mil

via DODIG.mil

It’s not like the State Department does not have a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, right?  And because we can’t keep this straight in our head, we have to wonder out loud, how is this delegated authority going to work if the IG had to review “M” and half the building that reports to “M”?  We asked, and we got an official response from State/OIG:

“Per the IG Act of 1978, as amended, and the FAM (1 FAM 052.1  Inspector General – (CT:ORG-312;   07-17-2013), the IG reports directly to the Secretary and Congress.  IG Steve Linick has access to the Secretary and meets regularly with the Deputy Secretaries and other high officials, as needed.”

Okay, but the State Department is the only federal Cabinet-level agency with two co-equal Deputy Secretaries. And yet, “M”, the office with the most number of boxes in the org chart among the under secretaries is the Secretary of State’s designated top management official responsible for OIG audit and inspection?

Let’s see how this works.

In late January, State/OIG posted its  Compliance Follow-up Audit of the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ Administration and Oversight of Funds Dedicated to Address Global Climate Change (AUD-ACF-14-16):

In 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of OES’ administration and oversight of funds dedicated to address global climate change to be responsive to global developments and the priorities of the Department.

In March 2013, OIG closed eight of these recommendations (Nos. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15) after verifying evidence that OES had provided showing that final corrective actions had been completed. At that time, OIG considered the remaining 10 recommendations resolved, pending final action.

Following initial discussions with OES and A/OPE officials on the status of the open recommendations from AUD/CG-12-40, OIG expanded its original scope to include an assessment of the Department’s actions on all open recommendations from the report.

Consequently, OIG incorporated the intent of AUD/CG-12-40 Recommendation 18 into a new recommendation (No. 9) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) to assign authority and responsibility for the oversight, review, and approval of nonacquisition interagency agreements that will ensure compliance with applicable Federal regulations and Department policies governing them.

As of December 31, 2013, neither A/OPE nor M had responded to the IG’s draft report.

Well, okay there you go, and what happens then?

*  *  *

According to history.state.gov, in 1957 the Department of State elevated the position of Chief of the Foreign Service Inspection Corps to that of Inspector General of the Foreign Service. Between 1957 and 1980, the Secretary of State designated incumbents, who held rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Oct 17, 1980; P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2080) made the Inspector General a Presidential appointee, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, and changed the title to “Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.”The two most recent OIG for State are  Clark Kent Ervin (2001-2003) and Howard J. Krongard (2005-2008). State did not have a Senate-confirmed OIG from 2009 to much of 2013.

We understand that during the Powell tenure at State, OIG reported to Secretary Powell through Deputy Secretary Armitage. We could not confirm this but it makes sense to us that the inspector general reports above the under secretary level. It demonstrates the importance the Secretary of State place on accountability — the IG reports directly to him through his Management and  Resources deputy; the only D/MR in the whole wide world.  What’s not to like about that?

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Joan Wadelton: Time To Fix The State Department (via WhirledView)

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– Domani Spero

We have previously posted about the case of FSO Joan Wadelton. (See Joan Wadelton’s Case: That’s One Messy Promotion Scorecard, Next Up – It’s GAO Time!Joan Wadelton’s Appeal Makes it to FSGB 2011 Annual Report to CongressGAO Examines Foreign Service Promotion Process — Strengthened But Documentation Gaps Remain). She is now on her tenth year of a legal dispute with the Department of State’s Bureau of Human Resources (HR). She recently guest posted at WhirledView and put her views on the record  “about how to correct the systemic failings that I have encountered over the last 10 years in the Bureau of Human Resources, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Legal Advisor.” Quick excerpt below:

The pervasive lack of oversight has led to near total impunity for those guilty of incompetence, cronyism and corruption within State.  A small group of career officials has taken advantage of this to gain control of the bureaucracy’s administrative functions.  Their pernicious influence has persisted for years.

The longevity of the group has been made possible by its control of the personnel system.  Senior managers at State stay in place for years – and when they do retire, they are rehired in a lucrative pay status, allowing them to remain in senior positions for more years.   Thus, the same people turn up repeatedly in ambassadorships and assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary jobs.

Not only does this discourage fresh thinking, it has bottled up the personnel system at the top.  With the jobs at the higher ranks endlessly filled by the same people, the cohort five or 10 years behind them in the career service cannot move up to become the next generation of leaders.  And as a consequence, many FSOs are forced to retire at the peak of their expertise.

Members of this inner circle have used their control of HR to give themselves and their friends promotions, prestigious assignments, cash bonuses and jobs for family members.  Conversely, they have used HR as a weapon against employees they dislike – including removing them from promotion lists and blocking plum assignments and cash bonuses – no matter how qualified those disfavored people might be.

Ms. Wadelton  was a Foreign Service Officer from 1980-2011.  She served in Africa, Latin America, Russia and Iraq.  In addition to assignments in the State Department, she was an advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a director of the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Continue reading Time to Fix the State Department.

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State/OIG Is Hiring! One Senior Investigative Counsel Wanted for Complex/Sensitive Allegations

– By Domani Spero

In early October, State IG Steve Linick was joined at the Inspector General Office by two former officials from FHFA-OIG; the office also had a partial make over of its top ranks.   See New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over.  Now State/OIG has announced job openings for three other positions.

Criminal Investigator
OIG-2014-0008
GS-1811-12/13
Closes: November 24, 2013

Attorney Adviser- General (Senior Investigative Counsel)
OIG-2014-0006
GS-0905-15
Closes: December 11, 2013

Director (Congressional and Public Affairs)
OIG-2014-0007
GS-0301-15
Closes: December 12, 2013

Well, what are you waiting for?  Active links added for those interested in applying for those jobs.

The Attorney Adviser position caught our eyes.  According to usajobs.gov, this position is specifically responsible for the following (not full list, see job announcement here):

  • Receiving and reviewing allegations of misconduct involving senior DOS/BBG employees that may involve violations of law, DOS/BBG regulations, or applicable standards of conduct;
  • Undertaking investigations to pursue such allegations either alone or as part of an OIG team. Drafts public and non-public reports of investigative findings or conclusions;
  • Identifying significant violations of policies or procedures that become evident in the course of investigations, evaluations, and other special projects, and submitting recommendations for corrective action;
  • Personally handling matters assigned by the IG/DIG that involve sensitive, highly visible issues;

The job is a full-time permanent  GS-15 position with a salary range of $123,758.00 to $155,500.00/per annum.

In any case, we got curious about this so we asked the IG office, and here is what we’re told:

“While the Director, Congressional & Public Affairs is an established position that has recently become vacant, the Investigative Counsel is a new position for the State OIG. The IG envisions hiring an individual with legal and/or prosecutorial experience to enhance OIG’s ability to pursue civil and criminal penalties and to investigate complex and sensitive allegations of employee misconduct.

In addition, this individual would be assigned to conduct special reviews and projects for the OIG.  This approach has been used successfully at the Department of Justice OIG, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.”

They do have complex and sensitive allegations to tackle over there.

Remember this past summer when there was a big kaboom in Foggy Bottom ? (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal.  The Cable’s John Hudson had an exclusive with Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence.  Some real serious allegations were made about cases that were reportedly ”influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” in the State Department.  State/OIG released a statement to CBS News here.

There were eight cases alleged in that memo.  None of those cases appeared on the OIG’s semi-annual report to Congress.  We’re still waiting for the results of the investigation.

State/OIG told us that “the eight cases to which you referred continue to be under review.”

A separate case involving allegations about the U.S. Consulate General in Naples did make it to the OIG semi-annual report ending March 31, 2013:

“On November 2, 2012, OIG received a request from Senator Rand Paul to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples, Italy. In its response, OIG noted that the complaints were referred to the appropriate offices in the Department and that the complainants were provided contact information for the offices to which the complaints were referred.”

State/OIG explained that the way its Office of Investigations (INV) works is that all incoming complaints and/or allegations are processed through the Hotline.  OIG INV then “assesses each incoming complaint and/or allegation individually to determine the most appropriate course of action based on the facts of the matter.”  This Naples case was referred out of the IG and is reportedly ongoing in the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.   We have to say that this is a case that already got ugly but can get a whole lot uglier.

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US Embassy Ukraine Gets High Marks and Yay! State/OIG Now Discloses Names of Inspectors

– By Domani Spero

Back in September, we blog-hoped that the arrival of the new Senate-confirmed Inspector General at the State Department would also bring some changes on how the office does its business.  One of the items in our wish list has to do with the redaction of the inspectors’ names from the publicly available reports.

We are pleased to note that the first embassy inspection report released publicly since new OIG Steve Linick took office no longer redacts the names of the inspectors.  State/OIG spokesman Douglas Welty confirmed that this is, in fact, a decision made by Mr. Linick.

So to State/OIG leaning on the side of disclosure –

bravissimo!

If you want to know why we have been bugging about this subject forever, read our post here.  Now about the OIG report on US Embassy Ukraine:

Brief background: The US Embassy in Kyiv is the largest embassy in eastern Europe, after Moscow. It has 672 employees, including 165 U.S. direct hires, representing nine U.S. Government agencies. In 2012, all elements of the mission, with the exception of Peace Corps and the Office of Defense Cooperation, moved into a new embassy compound. The mission operating budget in FY 2012 was $160.6 million.

According to the IG report, this inspection took place in Washington, DC, between March 25 and April 12, 2013, and in Kyiv, Ukraine, between April 13 and May 7, 2013. Here are the names of the inspectors:  Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft (team leader), Lavon Sajona (deputy team leader), Richard Behrend, David Davison, Dolores Hylander, Patricia Murphy, Shawn O’Reilly, Donna Roginski, Paul Smith, Alexandra Vega, and Tim Wildy.

Screen Shot 2013-10-26

At the time of the inspection, the embassy was headed by Ambassador John Tefft and DCM Eric Schultz. Ambassador Tefft had since left and was succeeded by Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who was confirmed the new ambassador to the Ukraine in June this year.

The following are the report’s key judgments:

  • Embassy Kyiv has been processing Ukrainian diversity visas since March 2012. Indications of widespread fraud have emerged. The program requires urgent attention and corrective action from Washington.(see separate post)
  • The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and Embassy Kyiv are considering reconverting the former Marine House into a new residence for the deputy chief of mission. The project will cost approximately $2.5 million, not counting the cost of reconversion of the current deputy chief of mission residence to separate quarters for several other families. A cost-benefit analysis is urgently needed to determine whether the former Marine House should be converted into multiple apartment units instead, a move that could yield cost savings of $200,000 to $300,000 annually.
  • Eighty percent of Embassy Kyiv’s grant recipients live outside the capital, making oversight difficult. A travel cap imposed by the Department of State in December 2012 does not include grants monitoring in the list of mission-essential travel. The guidelines defining travel to monitor grantee performance should be redefined as mission essential, and thus exempt from the travel cap.
  • The OIG team identified two innovative practices. First, Embassy Kyiv sponsored a contest among university students to promote intellectual property protection. Second, Embassy Kyiv management officers realized that newly-hired local staff members receive an orientation briefing but no further briefings as their careers progress. To address this gap, Embassy Kyiv conducts a regular weekly program designed to inform locally employed staff about policy changes

From the looks of it, the embassy appears well-functioning (with one program exception).  The inspectors have good things to say about Ambassador Tefft and his deputy, as well as the entire mission:

  • Under the leadership of a widely admired Ambassador, Embassy Kyiv has benefited from 4 years of clear policy objectives, effective diplomacy, active public outreach, and skilled management. The country team operates with transparency, confidence, and mutual respect. The recent move into a new embassy compound has reinforced teamwork and operational coordination.
  • The Ambassador is vigorous and articulate in his advocacy of U.S. policies and defense of U.S. interests. Embassy operations run smoothly, with a high level of policy and operational unity. The inspectors noted high morale across all agencies and sections. The deputy chief of mission’s (DCM) businesslike, no-nonsense approach effectively complements the Ambassador’s more informal style.
  • Morale among the American staff in Kyiv is good. The new embassy, and the colocation of personnel from six buildings around the city, enhances camaraderie. The post language program, the embassy employee association, schools, and the embassy dining area and snack bar scored high on the OIG quality of life questionnaires. The medical unit and the community liaison office received average scores.
Potential changes to come:

Local Staff Overtime: Excessive

The LE staff worked more than 23,000 hours of overtime between April 2012 and March 2013. ICASS overtime alone accounted for over 15,000 hours, or $162,000. The inspectors consider this amount excessive.

Tour of Duty: Moving Kyiv to a 3-year tour?

Department employees serving in Kyiv are assigned for a 2-year tour. Embassy Kyiv is a 20 percent hardship differential post. The Department and the embassy would be better served by 3-year assignments. Seven embassies with 20 percent hardship differential have 3-year tours, including Manila, New Delhi, Accra, Dakar, and Santo Domingo. The IG report points out that “cost savings would accrue to the Department if Embassy Kyiv moved to a 3-year tour.”  While it did not directly recommend recommend the move to a 3-year tour, it recommends that the embassy with DGHR and State/EUR “evaluate whether to assign Department of State employees to 3-year tours in Kyiv.”

American Spaces Network – the largest in the world is coming!

The Space represents a key public diplomacy platform in U.S. efforts to reach the more than 90 percent of Ukrainians who live outside the capital city. When PAS establishes its 30th American Space later this year in Zaporizhzhya, it will have the largest American Space network in the world.In FY 2012, PAS committed more than $286,000 to its Space operations. Its FY 2013 funding increased to nearly $500,000.

More nails and hammers!

There is a funded $3.4 million OBO project to convert the decommissioned old consular building into an American Center. There is also a $2.3 million OBO project to convert the former Marine House into a DCM residence. And there is the potential conversion of the current DCM residence into separate multiple apartment units for mission staffers. Construction has not started on the first two projects with estimated completion in  2014.

The report includes 19 recommendations, and  21 informal recommendations.  Ambassador Tefft,who had been appointed ambassador three times recently retired from the Foreign Service. In September this year, he  was awarded the 2012 Diplomacy in Human Rights Award for “For his sustained and effective leadership of the U.S. embassy in Kyiv in providing well-coordinated inter-agency support for the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to enjoy strengthened democratic institutions and practices, the fair administration of justice, and respect for the fundamental freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

We will have a separate post on the massive fraud on the “green card” lottery program in the Ukraine to follow.

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Ambassadorships, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, U.S. Missions

New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over

– By Domani Spero

We were writing our welcome back blog post for State/OIG last week when we noticed that there were new faces and reshuffled desks at the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department.

You may be aware by now that the new IG Steve Linick took office on September 30 but he wasn’t the only one who started fresh at the State Department.  He came to the State  Department with  Emilia Di Santo, his Chief of Staff/Acting Deputy Inspector General for Policy from the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office (FHFA-OIG),and David Z. Seide, his Director of Special Projects at the FHFA-OIG.

Emilia Di Santo, Acting Deputy Inspector General

Ms. Di Santo who was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.

Ms. Di Santo was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to this month’s move to the State Department. Previous to that, she was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and was a longtime senior investigator for GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.  During her time with committee, particularly from 2004 onwards, the Wall Street Journal called the Finance Committee “a chamber of misery for the pharmaceutical industry and medical device makers, using its mandate to stop Medicare fraud as the grounds for many investigations.”  Ms. Di Santo also made news in 2005, when  she was repeatedly attack by someone with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat while unloading her belongings at her home in Virginia. The Hill reported at that time that nine staples were needed to close her head wound and that the FBI and Capitol Police investigated the vicious attack amid concerns that the assault was related to her work on the Finance Committee.  We could not locate a follow-up report on that incident.  She did not give interviews, and simply returned to work. Ms. Di Santo had been expected to follow Senator Grassley to the Judiciary Committee but in 2011 she moved instead to the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office.

David Z. Seide, Counselor to the Inspector General

Mr. Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency. According to his LinkedIn profile, while in that capacity, he made significant contributions to the work of the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group. Mr. Seide also spent nearly 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he was responsible for the investigation, prosecution and trial of multiple individuals and organizations suspected of engaging in securities and business fraud.

A side note here, Mr. Linick’s former office at Federal Housing Finance Agency worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. On Friday, the WSJ  reported that JP Morgan has reached a tentative agreement of roughly $4 billion to settle Federal Housing Finance Agency claims the bank misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of mortgages it sold to them during the housing boom. Over the weekend, the NYT also reported about a larger tentative settlement over JP Morgan Chase mortgage practices and a potential record of $13 billion in penalty.

Another interesting note  we should add here.  Mr. Linick was FHFA’s first Inspector General. When he came to office in 2010, FHFA accused him of exceeding authority and went so far as to restrict the OIG access to agency documents, shared drive, and instructed employees that they should not communicate with FHF A-OIG without first apprising FHFA management. This guy did not fold.  (See Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) records provided to Senator Charles E. Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn concerning the independence of Inspectors General necessary to promote efficiency and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in agency programs, in response to the Senators’inquiry, 2011-2012, FOIA Request via governmentattic.org)

Two more new appointments:

Karen Ouzts, Assistant Inspector General for Administration

On September 4, 2013, Karen Ouzts was appointed as the new Assistant Inspector General for Administration.  She was previously the deputy at State/OIG’s Office of General Counsel. Ms. Ouzts succeeded David M. Yeutter who was appointed as OIG’s Executive Officer on October 2009. Mr. Yeutter is a Foreign Service specialist who presumably will return to a regular assignment in the Foreign Service.

Norman P. Brown, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits

On September 13, Norman P. Brown was appointed the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audit. He was previously the deputy for the Audit directorate prior to this appointment.  He succeeded Evelyn R. Klemstine who was appointed Assistant Inspector General for Audits in November 2009. State Magazine’s October 2013 issue listed  Ms. Klemstine as newly retired from the Civil Service.

The following officials remain at posts:

State/OIG has 318 employees, more than double FHFA-OIG staff.  About 93% of State/OIG staff are civil servants.  Interesting times, over there.

👀

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Filed under Appointments, Govt Reports/Documents, State Department