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Project on Government Oversight




POGO Disgusted by Reports of Retaliation Against Interior Department Auditors

September 21, 2006 


The Project On Government Oversight ( POGO ) today condemned reported efforts by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) to retaliate against auditors who have voiced concerns about the agency's failure to collect royalties from oil and gas companies.

This action comes on the heels of reports that MMS has taken several steps to prevent auditors from the State and Tribal Royalty Audit Committee (STRAC) from pursuing oil, gas and minerals royalties from companies that drill on federal and tribal lands. STRAC was formed in the 1980s by jurisdictions that have an interest in ensuring that minerals revenues are fully and fairly collected by the federal government.  These royalties are to be shared with state and tribal entities.

MMS announced last month that STRAC, which has repeatedly highlighted shortcomings with MMS' auditing standards, can no longer hold meetings unless an official from MMS is present.  Members of Congress wrote to the Interior Department on August 31, 2006 , concluding that "MMS is retaliating against STRAC … for voicing its concerns to Congress about dysfunction in the royalty management program."  Follow the link to view a copy of the Members' letter.

In the meantime, MMS has cut its auditing and staff by 26% since 2001 according to written testimony from the Project On Government Oversight last week. As a result, MMS audit collections are at an historic all-time low (follow this link to view testimony).

A story from today's New York Times also describes how MMS auditors were ignored and retaliated against for trying to collect unpaid royalties from oil and gas companies.

"Apparently, the Interior Department is again trying to muzzle complaints about its poor track record instead of actually solving its problems,' noted Beth Daley , POGO 's director of investigations.

Follow the link where POGO has posted a copy of Bobby Maxwell's amended complaint.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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