— 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 —
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.
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.