‘If the EPA does not address these areas, the agency will remain vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse…’
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) By not using modern systems like electronic invoicing, the Environmental Protection Agency is potentially placing more than a billion dollars at risk each year, according to a report from that agency’s Office of the Inspector General.
The report came about from an audit undertaken by the agency to determine whether the EPA had started an invoice payment process that allows for “efficient processing of accurate and supportable invoice payments.”
The conclusion: It has not.
Nor does it have a plan to do so–even though the Office of Management and Budget called for agencies to have e-invoicing in place by the end of fiscal year 2018.
This resistance to modern technology has consequences.
Without the e-invoicing system, the possibility for errors in transactions increases–and when that happens, the EPA must pay interest penalties.
The report also notes the agency often does not take discounts when offered.
Stunningly, the agency’s contracting officers and contracting officer representatives were also unable to provide or locate documentation proving that they were actually fulfilling their oversight roles.
“If the EPA does not address these areas, the agency will remain vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse; will continue to put taxpayer dollars at risk due to discounts lost and interest penalties paid; and will miss opportunities to put these funds to better use to protect human health and the environment,” the report concluded.
This is a tumultuous time for the agency, which just recently saw the resignation of its administrator, Scott Pruitt, after being embroiled in ethics scandals. His deputy, Andrew Wheeler, became acting administrator on July 9.
Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, also has faced antagonism from left-wing groups, such as a coalition of state and municipal attorneys who recently dangled the possibility of legal action over a rules change requiring that the EPA make public any scientific data used in determining policy.
Numerous recommendations are included in the report. Not surprisingly, one of them is to actually implement an e-invoicing system, following the federal directive. The inspector general wants a plan with milestone dates to make sure it will come in on time.
Next, the report recommends that the chief financial officer implement “measurable controls” that will keep track of processing delays while also keeping staff abreast of discount opportunities. It is also recommended that officials be informed of discount periods set to expire soon.
Furthermore, the inspector general recommends developing measurable controls for the processing of contract invoices and ways to modify contracts for administrative and processing errors.
The final recommendation is to implement a plan to make sure contracting officers are actually doing their jobs and to “implement agencywide measurable controls to address nonperformance of CO [Contracting Officer] oversight responsibilities.”
While the agency’s own manual provides that it should respond to draft reports from the inspector general within 30 days, the 30 days passed with no response.
“We will meet with the agency to obtain resolution for our recommendations,” the report concludes.