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EPA watchdog faults own hiring and payroll practices

Talk about a taste of your own medicine. A federal watchdog office recently turned its spotlight inward and discovered problems with its own hiring and payroll practices.

The inspector general’s office for the Environmental Protection Agency said in a series of reports last week that it doesn’t require managers to verify the employment history or references of job candidates and hasn’t always followed internal overtime policies or guidelines for reporting time and attendance.

Congress requested the reviews after federal prosecutors charged John C. Beale, a former senior policy adviser with the EPA, with stealing $900,000 from the government by pretending to work for the Central Intelligence Agency while he was absent from the EPA. Beale pleaded guilty in September.

In one of the reports last week, the inspector general’s office found that its own human resources division “does not do anything to identify false statements in an applicant’s information, including job history or accomplishments.”

“Without verification of prior employment or references for eligible job candidates, the potential exists that the OIG will not hire the best possible candidate, or hire a job applicant based on misleading information,” the report said.

The deputy inspector general agreed with all of the recommendations from the review, which called for the watchdog office to require verification of work history and references before making final hiring decisions.

In regard to overtime policies, an internal audit found that management did not ensure compliance with overtime policies and that the guidelines were not clear in the first place. Auditors recommended that the inspector general’s office clarify its overtime-authorization requirements and use appropriate forms for approval.

With time-and-attendance reporting, the watchdog agency said its employees did not always use the organization’s official system for recording hours, including for leave and premium pay. The report concluded that a lack of planned time sheets can result in inaccurate time-and-attendance numbers, as well as payments going to staffers without proper authorization.

The inspector general’s office called on managers and employees to review their records and correct them where appropriate, in addition to implementing controls to ensure that workers comply with reporting policies. The deputy inspector general agreed with the recommendations.