Chairman Bishop Questions Obama Administration on Egregious Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars by Federal Employees
March 8, 2012 -
Today, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a legislative hearing on four wilderness bills. At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) took the opportunity to question Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Michael Pool about the recent discovery of credit card abuse and possible time-card fraud by Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees in the West.
“Deputy Director Pool, it has come to my attention that there are clear signs of abuse, fraud, and frankly a failure of leadership in certain areas of BLM. The Committee has been made aware, through presumably one of your own emails that credit card abuse at BLM is ‘culturally rampant’ and that there is an overall ‘lack of managerial and supervisory support’ to prevent this type of fraud. In addition, there are allegations of ‘fire time miscoding’ which I presume deals with defrauding the Government by submitting false claims for number of hours worked,”said Chairman Bishop. “However, what is possibly the most disturbing is the allegation that many of these fraudulent activities were approved by management. Again, in your own email you acknowledge this deeply concerning issue, stating that ‘[t]he incidents . . . to date are clearly reflective of a failure in leadership and managerial/supervisory oversight.’ As I indicated yesterday, I intend to get to the bottom of this and thought that my inquiry should start with you today.”
Deputy Director Pool asserted that the Agency first became aware of the abuse in 2010 and has since initiated an agency-wide law enforcement investigation into the matter that remains ongoing. To date, at least two BLM employees have plead guilty to theft and embezzlement in federal court. Pool stated that there have been reports of widespread abuses in Utah and Idaho, as well as suspicions of similar cases in other states.
In February, BLM Deputy Director Michael Pool sent a letter to several state directors of BLM offices throughout the West urging immediate disciplinary action against employees that misuse BLM funds and exploit the system. Such abuses that have been reported include the use of government issued credit cards for personal expenditures and the falsifying of hours related to fire suppression activities.