USAID OIG: “The office is a watchdog not doing its job” — IG Nominee Withdraws Name

— Domani Spero
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According to WaPo, Michael G. Carroll, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s acting inspector general, withdrew his name from consideration to be President Obama’s permanent inspector general today after it has been pending for 16 months. This development came amidst WaPo’s report that negative findings in USAID OIG’s reports were being stricken from audits between 2011 and 2013.

In recent interviews, eight current auditors and employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution complained about negative findings being stricken from audits between 2011 and 2013. In some cases, the findings were put into confidential “management letters” and financial documents, which are sent to high-ranking USAID officials but are generally kept from public view.

The auditors said the office has increasingly become a defender of the agency under acting inspector general Michael G. Carroll. Some auditors said Carroll did not want to create controversy as he awaited Senate confirmation to become the permanent inspector general.

On Wednesday, Carroll withdrew his nomination, which had been pending for 16 months. Carroll declined to discuss his decision. A career government employee, he has been with the office since 2000 and took over as acting inspector general in 2011.
[…]

Carroll’s withdrawal comes at a time of growing criticism from whistleblowers who have been in contact with Senate investigators and Post reporters.

“The office is a watchdog not doing its job,” said Darren Roman, an audit supervisor at the inspector general’s office who retired in 2012 after a 23-year career. “It’s just easier for upper management to go along to get along. The message is: ‘Don’t make waves, don’t report any problems.’ ”
[…]

The Post tracked changes in the language that auditors used to describe USAID and its mission offices. The analysis found that more than 400 negative references were removed from the audits between the draft and final versions.

In one audit, the number of negative references fell from 113 to 61; in another, from 170 to 13.

As a rule, inspectors general try to ensure that their reports are accurate and reflect the perspectives of the agencies and private contractors they examine. It is not unusual for audits to change between the draft and final reports, but whistleblowers say the changes have gone too far.
[…]
At the USAID inspector general’s office, several auditors and employees told The Post that their authority has been undermined, and some have hired attorneys to file whistleblower and employment discrimination claims. Auditors stationed in different offices around the world have come forward with similar complaints.

Read the allegations of disturbing shenanigans reported by the Washington Post in Whistleblowers say USAID’s IG removed critical details from public reports. 

At the time of Mr. Carroll’s nomination in June 2013, he was the Deputy Inspector General at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a position he held since May 2012.  From October 2011 to May 2012, he was Acting Inspector General at USAID.  From 2006 to 2011, he was Deputy Inspector General, and from 2000 to 2004, he was the Assistant Inspector General for Management at USAID.

While Mr. Carroll has now withdrawn him name from consideration as permanent USAID IG, according to WaPo, he apparently told his staff that he plans to remain in the office as a deputy inspector general.

Huh?

As of this writing, the WH has yet to publish its withdrawal of the Carroll nomination.

Can we please have a congressional hearing on these allegations and make sure the witnesses include people who actually knew what was going on? And please, let’s not have an excuse that some folks were not interviewed because they had left government service and are no longer employees or contractors of USAID.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

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USCG Naples: Don’t Smile, You’re In the New York Post!

— By Domani Spero

The New York Post has been stirring up a super storm in Foggy Bottom. Following the CBS News scoop on alleged interference over DSS investigations, the NYPost let out the screaming kraken bubbling with all the allegations and names for all to see. On June 11, it has Hillary’s sorry state of affairs.  This was followed on June 13 with State Department has hired agents with criminal records, memo reveals. On June 14, Another State Dept. tryst and shout.  On June 15, Politician seeks answers on Weiner wife Huma Abedin’s private consulting gig.

Frankly, by Sunday, our eyeballs felt Mad Max crazy and weary.  But then another one burst on our screen:  Whistleblower accuses consul general of trysts with subordinates and hookers. Wait – whaaaat?

This latest allegation which concerns the U.S. Consul General in Naples is now reportedly part of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint filed with the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.  The complainant according to the New York Post is Kerry Howard, a former Community Liaison Officer (CLO) at USCG Naples. CLO positions are typically filled by eligible family members (EFMs) accompanying their FSOs on assignments overseas.  We should note that the position is currently vacant in the latest Key Officers List.

US Consulate General Naples, Italy Photo via USCG/FB)

US Consulate General Naples, Italy
Photo via USCG/FB)

Excerpt via the NYPost:

[A] whistleblower claims she was run out of the foreign service after complaining about a consul general’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers.

Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed US Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged security-threatening shenanigans in the Naples, Italy, office.

As the post’s community-liaison officer, Howard was charged with keeping workplace peace and advising higher-ups on the state of morale, but when she revealed allegations about her boss, State Department officials swept it under the rug, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint she filed with the department’s Office of Civil Rights.
[…]
The soap opera in Italy unfolded in the fall of 2010, when Moore became the Naples consul general after serving in the same capacity at the US Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore could make as much as $179,700 a year, State Department data says.

[…]
With the affair rumors swirling, Howard’s supervisor, Pamela Caplis, instructed Howard to keep quiet, Howard claims.

“I have already informed Frankfurt,” Caplis allegedly said in what Howard claims was an attempt to head off the complaint.

Still, on a February 2011 trip to Rome, Howard told the US Embassy’s management officer, Frank Ledahawsky, that morale was “very bad” because of the alleged affair.

“We have to save his career,” Ledahawsky allegedly said.

Shortly after the meeting, Moore was allegedly called to Rome and ordered to end his relationship with the employee.

Howard thought her troubles would be over, but she became a target instead.

Read in full here.

According to his official bio, the official referred to in the EEO complaint is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor. He joined the Foreign Service in 1992 after serving as an Assistant State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit in Florida.

The  CLO’s supervisor is normally the management officer/counselor at post.  At one point in 2011, Ms. Caplis named in the report was also the acting Consul General in Naples.  Another officer mentioned in this report Frank J. Ledahowsky, is the management counselor at the US Embassy in Rome.  Mr. Ledahowsky arrived in Rome in August 2008 according to the OIG report on US Mission Italy.  The inspection report is dated 2010 and included an inspection conducted on USCG Naples between February 23 and March 2, 2010 prior to the tenure of Mr. Moore.

The US Mission in Italy (including the constituent posts in Florence, Milan and Naples) is under the authority of Ambassador David Thorne who has been the United States Ambassador to Italy and Ambassador to San Marino since 2009.  He is also the twin brother of Julia Thorne, Secretary Kerry’s first wife.  Douglas C. Hengel is Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Rome, a position he assumed in November 2010. The DCM is typically the supervisor and rating officer of the principal officers of constituent posts.

Since this is an Office of Civil Rights case, it is doubtful that we’ll ever get to read the affidavits apparently executed by seven former Italian consulate employees used in support of this complaint.  Should be interesting to see how this ends. The OCR  investigation into this allegation is reportedly nearing its conclusion.

Is it just us or do you get a feeling that we have crossed into a whole new world of reality?  It looks like keeping a stiff upper lip as was “standard” diplomatic practice has now become as outdated as your ancient Wang machine.  We can’t say if this trend becomes a tidal wave but we noticed that we now have almost about *half a dozen State Department whistleblowers, some self-proclaimed , and it’s only June.

* (Mark Thompson (State/CT), Gregory Hicks (former DCM, US Embassy Tripoli), Eric Nordstrom (former RSO, US Embassy Tripoli)Kerry Howard (former CLO, USCG Naples)Aurelia Fedenisn (former OIG), Richard Higbie (DS, Texas).

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CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal

— By Domani Spero

In March 2013 we posted this: State/OIG on Diplomatic Security’s Special Investigations Division – The Missing Firewall.

The OIG recommends that the Office of the Deputy Secretary (presumably the incoming D/MR who succeeds Mr. Nides) should “restructure the investigative responsibilities currently assigned to the Special Investigations Division. The outcome should include safeguards to prevent any Department of State or Diplomatic Security official from improperly influencing the commencement, course, or outcome of any investigation.”

At that time we thought it would have been interesting to know which cases were alleged to have been interfered with.  Now, we may be close to knowing or something.

And because it’s Monday, here’s the news that could totally wreck your day if you work in Foggy Bottom.

CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples.

Memos showed that probes included allegations of:

  • A State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards
  • Members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
  • An “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
  • The case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.
  • Investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detail” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”
  • “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases … some of which never became cases,” said Aurelia Fedenisn, a whistleblower and former investigator for the Inspector General.

Apparently, DSS agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off;  a charge that Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller is “very” upsetting.

It would have been nice if this were corroborated  by somebody who worked at DSS. Oh, hey, look:

John Miller spoke with Mike Pohelitz, a retired Senior Agent at the DSS who was involved in one of the cases listed in the Inspector General’s memo. Pohelitz said he was told to stop investigating one of the cases and that the order likely came from the upper ranks of the DSS.

“I got the information through my DS channel,” he told Miller. “But it had to come from somebody higher than DS, I’m sure.”

Read the full CBS report here.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10

Click on image to go to CBS News

Below is the published report the CBS news is referring to; dated February 28, 2013 and posted online on March 15, 2013, sanitized for public consumption:

-02/28/13   Inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence, Divisions of Special Investigations, Criminal Investigations, and Computer Investigations and Forensics (ISP-I-13-18)  [330 Kb] DS/CI/SID (ISP-I-13-18)

Here is an excerpt from that report:

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Investigations Division (SID), which investigates allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct, lacks a firewall to preclude the DS and Department of State (Department) hierarchies from exercising undue influence in particular cases.

In all matters relating to investigative work, the investigative organization needs to be free, in fact and appearance, from impairments to independence in both organization and attitude. Such independence is essential so that an organization’s decisions about obtaining evidence, conducting interviews, and making recommendations will be impartial and viewed as such by knowledgeable third parties. The credibility of the Department’s investigative organizations and disciplinary system depends on that independence, yet the perception exists among knowledgeable parties that external influences have negatively affected some SID investigations.

SID is one of many offices that report up the normal chain to the principal deputy assistant secretary and director of the Diplomatic Security Service. Foreign Service special agents in SID, 80 percent of whom are junior in rank, ordinarily serve only one tour as an investigator. Subjects of their investigations may include more senior DS agents; other senior DS agents are sometimes hostile witnesses for interviews. The SID supervisors also are in the DS mainstream and subject to regular “up or out” assignment and promotion processes. During inspection interviews, nearly every SID special agent acknowledged being aware that one or more suspects, witnesses, or senior Department officials could one day serve on a promotion board or on a DS assignment panel that would decide the investigator’s career prospects. Although most investigators said that they had not experienced career pressure in any particular cases, some had indeed felt such pressure. Several special agents in SID observed that Civil Service agents with sufficient rank are less susceptible to such pressure, as their careers do not depend on DS assignment panels or Foreign Service promotion boards.

Inspectors observed that the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Justice, and U.S. Secret Service internal affairs investigative offices all have protections in place to insulate sensitive internal investigations from even the perception of interference. The current SID structure does not foster independence from career pressures and creates significant potential for undue influence, favoritism, and potential retribution. Various corrective mechanisms may be possible. U.S. Government investigative experts from outside the Department could offer helpful structural benchmarks.

We checked with the OIG for comments and this is what we received:

  • The final report on DS/CI/SID (ISP-I-13-18) was published, distributed and posted on the OIG Website in February 2013 (http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/206520.pdf) (Note: Actually posted online on March 15, 2013, see link above)
  • During the course of an OIG audit or inspection, if allegations of misconduct are received, it is standard procedure to refer them to OIG’s Office of Investigations.
  • It is OIG policy not to comment on on-going work.
  • On its own initiative, OIG’s Office on Investigations has been conducting an independent review of allegations referred to it by our Office of Inspections.
  • OIG has staffed the review appropriately and independently.
  • OIG wants to emphasize the sensitive nature of OIG inspection information, particularly when it pertains to individuals and may be incomplete or contain unverified, raw data.  Fairness and due process preclude OIG from further comment.

So that’s the official word.

But see, now you know why the missing firewall was a big deal. It’s the only thing “missing” that can either haunt you or go kaboom.

The tricky thing here is the whistleblower, Aurelia Fedenisn, is a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General.  While we would like to know why she is now a former investigator after 22 years of service, that is not nearly as important as the alleged manipulation of investigative cases.

And even as the  “OIG’s Office on Investigations has been conducting an independent review of allegations” on its “own initiative,” we do not think that it would be the appropriate for the Office of the Inspector General to be investigating the alleged cover-ups of these investigations.  

(._.)