Thursday, September 14, 2006

Interior Official Assails Agency for Ethics Slide

The Interior Department’s chief official responsible for investigating abuses and overseeing operations accused the top officials at the agency on Wednesday of tolerating widespread ethical failures, from cronyism to cover-ups of incompetence.

“Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior,” charged Earl E. Devaney, the Interior Department’s inspector general, at a hearing of the House Government Reform subcommittee on energy.

“I have observed one instance after another when the good work of my office has been disregarded by the department,” he continued. “Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials — taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias — have been routinely dismissed with a promise ‘not to do it again.

”The blistering attack was part of Mr. Devaney’s report on what he called the Interior Department’s “bureaucratic bungling” of oil and gas leases signed in the late 1990’s, mistakes that are now expected to cost the government billions of dollars but were covered up for six years.

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