«SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO THE CONGRESS October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 SUMMARY OF OIG ACCOMPLISHMENTS Financial Results Questioned costs Issued during ...»
21 INNOVATIVE PRACTICE: Ambassador’s Public Diplomacy Strategic Plan—Electronic Calendar at Embassy Budapest All U.S. missions are required to draft an Integrated Country Strategy, but public events or projects are sometimes not coordinated across the mission or specifically tied to the Integrated Country Strategy goals. Embassy Budapest created an electronic calendar that tracks the mission’s public events according to Integrated Country Strategy goals, listing planned projects, dates, venues, mission goal and objective, and responsible mission section, with a social-media plan for each item.
Benefit: The strategic calendar is a useful management tool for the embassy front office and members of the country team. Public diplomacy plans are amplified through media outreach, Web site, and social media.
INNOVATIVE PRACTICE: Arrivals and Departures— Collaboration Database at Embassy Budapest Information sharing and data synchronization is critical to the success of an embassy’s mission. However, Personally Identifiable Information issues and other privacy policies often prevent sections from sharing commonly gathered data. At Embassy Budapest, the information systems officer created a list-based system using Microsoft SharePoint that allows various sections to synchronize and share commonly gathered data without violating privacy policies. Users can upload data to a list, and each section’s view is restricted to only the information that they needed to know.
Benefit: The SharePoint-based system provides a simple interface that increases information accuracy and protects Personally Identifiable Information.
22 Inspection of Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria (ISP-I-14-02A) Embassy Sofia produced generally timely, high-quality analytical reporting on Bulgaria’s politics, human rights, legal reform, and the burgeoning bilateral security relationship. However, the mission needed to link travel, reporting and representation plans, and schedules to strategic goals. OIG made recommendations to correct these deficiencies
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Inspection of Embassy Manama, Bahrain (ISP-I-14-07A) Embassy Manama and the large U.S. Navy contingent in Bahrain did a good job coordinating their efforts to advance military cooperation and address human rights concerns during a time of political division within the country. However, the team identified several issues, including the Ambassador’s leadership style and failure to maintain a robust planning process, sparse economic reporting, and deficiencies in management controls, especially in procurement. OIG recommended that the embassy address management control deficiencies and correct problems in other areas.
INNOVATIVE PRACTICE: Mobile Internet Routers in Welcome Kits at Embassy Manama In Manama, it often takes up to a month to obtain the necessary local documentation and make arrangements to secure residential Internet connectivity.
The lack of connectivity during this waiting period often complicated communications for families, including emergency notifications. In response, Embassy Manama purchased a number of mobile Internet routers and included one in each newcomer’s welcome kit. New arrivals can use the mobile router for up to a month, after which, they must return it to the General Services Officer for inclusion in the next welcome kit.
Benefit: New arrivals are able to connect to the Internet upon arrival, which contributes to their smooth transition and increases productivity.
Inspection of Embassy Panama City, Panama (ISP-I-14-04A) Embassy Panama City was working productively with Panama to improve lawenforcement cooperation, consolidate democratic institutions, and expand economic opportunity and transparency. The closure of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission after 51 years marked a successful milestone in Panama’s economic development, but the embassy needed support from USAID to manage legacy assistance activities that taxed embassy resources. The embassy had successfully accommodated large staffing increases but needed to increase support personnel to continue to deliver adequate services. OIG made recommendations to address these concerns.
Inspection of Embassy San Salvador, El Salvador (ISP-I-14-05A) Embassy San Salvador was functioning as a cohesive mission that effectively promotes U.S. interests in El Salvador. However, the embassy needs to create a comprehensive inventory of foreign assistance programs, which totaled $1 billion over the last 5 years, and should review the inventory regularly to ensure proper oversight and policy coordination. The consular section had outgrown its space because demand for immigrant visa services had doubled over the last 5 years. OIG made recommendations to centralize and designate responsibility for all foreign assistance activities and to address Embassy San Salvador’s space needs.
24 Systemic Issues Noted During OIG Inspections
Foreign Assistance Oversight and Coordination A number of missions and bureaus have difficulty cataloging, coordinating, and overseeing assistance programs. At Embassy San Salvador, where U.S. Government foreign assistance programs totaled $1 billion over the last 5 years, OIG found the mission lacked a comprehensive inventory of assistance programs, increasing the chance of duplication. Embassy personnel were not aware of bureau-funded grants totaling $717,000 and $250,000, and they had not been briefed on the results of a Department of Labor review of grants totaling $14 million. In FY 2013, OIG issued recommendations to address deficiencies in foreign assistance oversight during inspections of Embassies Juba, Khartoum, Baghdad, Moscow, Manila, Rabat, Kyiv, and the Offices to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator. OIG also found deficiencies in foreign assistance coordination during the inspections of Embassies Juba, Kyiv, Rabat, and Baghdad.
OIG found that the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) had to compete with other bureaus and agencies to obtain reprogrammed funds to engage in programs overseas because it did not receive appropriated foreign assistance funds.
Many CSO staff members told OIG they engaged in programs overseas to increase their relevance and influence within the Department and interagency community.
OIG noted that CSO should only compete for program resources when no other appropriate entity is available to implement a program deemed necessary to avoid or mitigate conflict Grants During the inspection of Embassy Panama City, where the Department awarded 177 grants totaling $7.6 million over 5 years, OIG found that grant management responsibilities were too widely disbursed, making it difficult to ensure consistent oversight.
Improvements were particularly important because several of the grantees were considered high-risk and required increased monitoring. A recent OIG review found that grant files did not consistently include plans for managing and monitoring risk and were not properly organized or closed out. OIG also found Department officers assigned to represent USAID at semiannual meetings for three foundations did not have the required legal expertise to do so.
OIG found that Embassy San Salvador lacked trained grants officer representatives to oversee foreign assistance programs, including two Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement grants totaling more than $2 million. During the inspection of CSO, OIG found that new program officers and grants officer representatives were confused about their roles, the role of the grants officer, and the role of the grantees.
25 OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS
CONTRACT FRAUDOIG conducted a joint investigation involving allegations of inflated cost and pricing data on a Department task order for a contract executed in Iraq. The investigation determined that as a result of overbilling by the contractor, the Department significantly overpaid on the task order. On October 9, 2013, the contractor agreed to reimburse the Department $64,347,239 for the amount of the overpayment.
OIG conducted a separate investigation of a Department-funded contract in Afghanistan with other Federal law-enforcement agencies. The investigation determined that the owner of the contract company was provided bid information by a government employee. The government terminated the contract for default, thereby incurring a cost savings of $1,714,269. The investigation remains ongoing.
GRANT FRAUD OIG conducted an investigation involving allegations of theft of $49,130 in grant funds by a grantee in Afghanistan. The investigation determined that the grantee received the grant funds but did not produce the product that was required by the terms of the grant. On September 23, 2013, the Department of Justice declined the case for criminal prosecution and deferred such action to the local Afghan Attorney General’s office. On October 23, 2013, the Department debarred the grantee and her company for a period of three years.
OIG conducted a joint investigation pertaining to possible double billing by a Department grant recipient in Afghanistan. A financial audit undertaken during the course of the investigation determined that $861,426 in costs between the various grant amendments was deemed unallowable. On November 27, 2013, the Department grants specialist issued a letter to the grantee advising it of the $861,426 in unallowable costs and the Department’s intent to recover those costs.
VISA FRAUD OIG conducted an investigation involving allegations of a widespread visa fraud scheme perpetrated by a husband and wife. The investigation confirmed the allegations, and both individuals were indicted and convicted of False Statements, Conspiracy to Commit Immigration Document Fraud, and Passport Forgery. On October 1, 2013, the husband was sentenced to 3 years probation and 60 days of intermittent confinement and the wife was sentenced to 3 years probation.
KICKBACKS AND GRATUITIESOIG conducted an investigation involving three locally employed (LE) staff members in Iraq who allegedly received payment from a vendor for the authorized removal of recyclable waste. The investigation determined that an American embassy employee was aware of the payments to the LE personnel and he conspired with them to conceal the funds. The American employee was curtailed from post, and on February 25, 2014, the Bureau of Human Resources proposed that he be suspended for 20 days.
The three LE staff members were terminated from employment.
Department Contract Employee and Spouse Sentenced in Fraud Case OIG conducted a joint investigation involving a contract employee who was alleged to have steered Department contracts and task orders to a company owned by her husband after she had attempted to conceal the marriage from the Department. The investigation determined that the contract employee steered more than $39 million in Department contracts to a company she and her husband controlled. Both subjects pled guilty to Major Fraud Against the United States and multiple counts of Conspiracy to Commit Illegal Monetary Transactions and Illegal Monetary Transactions.
On December 6, 2013, the contract employee was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and her husband received an 18-month sentence. The subjects were also ordered to forfeit to the U.S. government a total of $7,864,795 that was determined to have been
proceeds of the fraud. For more details, see OIG’s Semiannual Report to the Congress:
April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013, p. 33.
Department Contract Employee Sentenced for Accepting Illegal Gratuity OIG conducted an investigation pertaining to allegations that a personal-services contract employee working for the Department in Afghanistan solicited money from contractors in exchange for awarding and/or manipulating the awarding of Department contracts. During the investigation, the contract employee admitted to OIG that he received a $30,000 cash payment from a Department contractor. On September 19, 2013, the contract employee pled guilty to Receipt of an Illegal Gratuity by a Public Official.
On January 14, 2014, the employee was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $3,000 fine and a $100 Special Assessment. On January 27, 2014, the Department barred him from involvement in future contacting. For more details, see OIG’s Semiannual Report to the Congress, April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013, p. 33.
MA-A-0001 Management Alert: OIG Findings of Significant and Recurring Weaknesses in the Department of State Information System Security Program MA-A-0002 Management Alert: Contract File Management Deficiencies
1 Final amounts in the previous Semiannual Report were adjusted based on updated information and analysis of open recommendations.
TABLE 2: OIG REPORTS WITH RECOMMENDATIONS THAT
FUNDS BE PUT TO BETTER USE
1 Final amounts in the previous Semiannual Report to the Congress were adjusted based on updated information and an analysis of open recommendations. Does not include $2.5 million in funds included in C(i).
2 Includes $2.5 million in funds identified as savings by the Department reported to OIG as a result of OIG’s ecommendation in a report issued in a prior reporting period (ISP-I-12-54, Inspection of the Bureau of Administration, Global Information Services, Offices of Information Programs and Services).
33 TABLE 3: OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET CIRCULAR A-133 AUDITS
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133, Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations, establishes audit requirements for state and local governments, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations receiving Federal awards. Under this circular, covered entities that expend $500,000 or more a year in Federal funds must obtain an annual organization-wide “single audit” that includes the entity’s financial statements and compliance with Federal award requirements. These audits are conducted by non-Federal auditors, such as public accounting firms and state auditors.