21. EPA FAILS TO PURSUE VIOLATORS OF FRAUD AND ABUSE

The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 to administer and enforce national pollution control laws dealing with air and water pollution, noise abatement, solid waste management, pesticide regulation and radiation standard-setting.

In June 1991, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations issued a report that charged the EPA with failing to perform its responsibilities.

Specifically, the report said EPA auditors failed to pursue potential waste and fraud in some $8.6 billion worth of government contracts, including critical work on the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program.

It charged that the independent watchdog office within the EPA is "plagued by serious leadership failures," that efforts to audit serious fraud allegations against one of EPA's largest contractors were "superficial," and that investigators' performance in prosecuting potential fraud by Superfund cleanup contractors was "dismal."

The report, which covered fiscal years 1984 through 1990, added that there were 273 outstanding requests for audits that had not been attended to and called that "simply staggering."

The subcommittee report said the EPA Inspector General's office missed serious problems discovered by Pentagon auditors and EPA procurement officials and ignored those findings as well as investigations by the inspector general's regional office.

Of 48 Superfund cases selected for investigation from 1984-90, the report said only four percent resulted in any prosecution and only eight percent led to administrative action such as employee dismissals.

The inspector general's own standards rate an investigative manager's performance as unsatisfactory if fewer than 25% of the closed cases lead to a criminal or administrative action.

One of the primary responsibilities of the press is to hold those in power accountable for their actions. In this case, the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill while the guilty parties once again avoid being held accountable.

SSU CENSORED RESEARCIIER: KATHY AANESTAD

SOURCE: LOS ANGELES TIMES (Associated Press) Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90037
DATE: 7/7/91
TITLE: "EPA Fails to Pursue Fraud, Contract Abuse, Panel Says"

COMMENTS: Project Censored colleagues who have followed the works of environmental writer Jim Sibbison in the past won't be surprised at this nomination. In 1988, Sibbison wrote the #2 story of the year where he revealed how reports of improvement in environmental pollution levels were a deliberate attempt by the EPA to mislead and pacify the public (Columbia Journalism Review, Nov/Dec 1988, "Dead fish and red herrings: how the EPA pollutes the news"). Again, in 1989, Sibbison, in the #22 story of the year, reported on the ethical question of the revolving door between high level EPA officials and the industry they reportedly are monitoring. (The Nation, 11 /6/89, "Revolving Door at the EPA.")

In this year's nomination, apparently an exception to Jeffrey Denny's story of the failure of Congressional oversight (see # 14, page 44), the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations attempted to expose an extraordinary case of EPA malfeasance but the mass media didn't follow-up on the story.

The report, which cited EPA auditors for failure to pursue potential fraud and waste in nearly $9 billion of government contracts, in addition to 273 requests for audits not done, deserved far more coverage than the 12-column inches the Los Angeles Times gave the Associated Press story on page A4.