Department Responds to IG's Stinging Ethics Allegations

The Interior Department struck back today at scathing testimony from its inspector general who accused senior officials of having an "anything goes" attitude toward ethics problems.

Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett told the House Government Reform Committee that the department's 70,000 employees are dedicated to strong ethics and personal accountability.

Inspector General Earl Devaney told the panel a different story yesterday. "Short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior," he said (E&ENews PM, Sept. 13).

"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,'" he added.

In a prepared statement, Scarlett disagreed "with the IG's broad-brush characterization." "We take seriously any and all instances in which we find -- whether through our own management efforts or from IG investigations -- waste, fraud, ethical violations and other inappropriate actions," Scarlett said.

Scarlett added she was only asked to submit testimony Tuesday and did not see Devaney's remarks until yesterday.

"He makes broad and serious, yet vague allegations," Scarlett said.

Devaney said he is working on a "white paper" to present to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for ethics reforms.

Copyright 2006 Greenwire. All Rights Reserved. Visit E&E Publishing for a free trial.

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