After receiving multiple allegations in April 2010 concerning hiring and contracting practices in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which plays a critical role in implementing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Recovery programs, the DOE Inspector General chose to focus on three allegations that it determined were the most serious:
- allowing a contractor to supervise federal employees;
- subsequently improperly hiring the contractor for a senior federal career position;
- awarding a contract without adequate competition.
IG officials interviewed 31 current and former EERE employees, reviewed applicable federal regulations, and analyzed more than 250,000 emails.
The officials found conflicting evidence regarding complaints that the contractor had improperly performed supervisory duties over federal employees. But investigators concluded that the contractor had been pre-selected for the senior federal career position, thus gaining unfair advantage over others who might have sought the job. The allegation that a contract was awarded without adequate competition could not be substantiated.
During the inquiry, however, IG officials identified areas of concern in EERE’s hiring and contracting practices. One in particular, which the report describes as “disturbing,” involved EERE officials’ requesting contractors to hire specific individuals and assign them to support its contracts. In some cases, EERE requested that contractors hire individuals until they could be brought on as permanent federal employees.
The report makes recommendations that DOE “should take prompt action to ensure that the issues raised in our report are thoroughly reviewed and addressed.” IG officials also indicated that they were referring evidence of hiring pre-selection – an EERE official had provided assistance and advance information to a contractor seeking a senior federal career position – to the U.S. Special Counsel “for a determination as to whether prohibited personnel practices should be prosecuted under the Special Counsel's authority.”
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