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Sessions and Republican Send Follow-Up Letter On Drilling Moratorium

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama joined Sen. David Vitter (R) from Louisiana and Sen. John Cornyn (R) from Texas in a letter sent to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).  The CIGIE is charged with overseeing the conduct of all Inspectors General.

In response to a Sessions-Vitter-Cornyn letter on May 24, 2012, the CIGIE began an investigation into allegations of improper conduct by Department of Interior (DOI) Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall involving the Administration’s deep water drilling moratorium. Thursday’s letter provided the CIGIE with new information relevant to the ongoing investigation and included a survey of employees working at the DOI Office of Inspector General suggesting continued problems within that office under the current leadership.

Sen. Sessions and his colleagues wrote, “We write to express our appreciation for the Integrity Committee’s diligent efforts in response to our letter of May 24, 2012, furthering the investigation into this important matter.  Although this letter is not intended to in any way slow or impede the investigation, we did want to bring to your attention new information that should help inform your review.”

The Senators continued, “On September 19, 2012, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall—the subject of the Integrity Committee’s investigation—sent a memorandum to all Interior Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) employees concerning the results of the 2012 annual survey of Interior Department OIG employees.  Over 80% of OIG employees completed the survey, and the results suggest that a significant number of employees (approximately 15%) believe OIG does not conduct its work in a manner that is “independent” from the Interior Department.  As troubling, the survey results suggest that a significant number of employees (approximately 23%) do not believe communication within the OIG is “open and honest.”  The survey contains several concerning comments including one employee who stated: “I think there is widespread distrust and low morale in the organization right now. There are at least perceptions the acting IG and COS [Chief of Staff] did not do the right thing, ie [sic], improperly quashed investigations, and have not been forthright with Congress.”  Another commenter expressed concern with “how much reports get softened to avoid ‘slamming’ the Department in the interest of maintaining a good relationship” and advised that if the Interior Department “did something horribly wrong, it isn’t our [OIG’s] job to soften the blow.”

The Senators accused Ms Kendall of ignoring the possible impact of her own actions on employee morale relative to the OIG’s report on the federal moratorium on deep water drilling.

The Senators wrote, “The integrity of the work of the OIG is imperative to the proper functioning of all federal agencies.  Indeed, it is the one office within an agency that must operate without political influence.  If the OIG at any federal agency fails to act as required, the public’s confidence in the proper governance of these agencies cannot be met.  These survey results seem to support the view that, at least within the OIG itself, there is a lack of full confidence in the integrity of their work under the current leadership.  We believe this is important context for your ongoing investigation and reinforces why we believe it is important for your investigation to be thorough and concluded in a timely manner, as these matters need to be addressed and resolved without undue delay.”

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Senators Sessions, Cornyn, and Vitter encouraged, “the Integrity Committee, or the reviewing authorities you have charged with investigating this matter, to review these survey results and interview DOI employees concerning these matters to the extent consistent with the Committee’s authority and purview.”

Republican critics of the Obama Administration claim that the Administration has been too slow to grant new oil drilling permits and that the deep water drilling moratorium imposed following the Deepwater Horizon explosion has led to higher fuel prices for American families and a burden on economic growth.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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