June 6, 2013
Alleged Nepotism and Wasteful Spending in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The Department of Energy (Department) administers various hiring programs designed to generate a pipeline of talent to replenish its workforce and to maintain overall workforce vitality.
One of those programs is the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP), which provides opportunities for students to gain work experience, while enhancing their awareness of the Department's mission and functions. STEP appointments are exempted from the usual competitive selection examining procedures; however, this does not negate the responsibility for ensuring a fair and open competitive process during the selection of STEP participants. While the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer provides various hiring related services to a number of program offices, selection authority is vested in individual program offices.
Recently, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received allegations that a senior
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) official had violated these regulations by: (1) engaging in nepotism by advocating for his three children to obtain STEP employment at the Department; and (2) wasting funds by enrolling two of the three children in costly training courses unrelated to their duties as STEP interns.
Our inspection substantiated the allegation that the senior EERE official was actively involved in securing STEP intern appointments at the Department for his three college-aged children. The allegation related to enrolling his children in inappropriate training was not substantiated. Nepotism or even its appearance can have a decidedly negative impact on morale within an organization. As is readily apparent, providing inappropriate advantages for relatives of Federal employees damages the integrity of the competitive process and erodes public trust in the Federal hiring process. Management concurred with the recommendations in the report to strengthen internal controls over hiring processes within the Department.