The Commerce Department’s inspector general has issued a report showing that dozens of Census Bureau employees are billing the government for hours they didn’t work, defrauding taxpayers of more than $1.1 million.
The 40 officials were supposed to be performing background checks on the census personnel who walk door-to-door throughout the country to collect information about Americans. Instead, they “engaged in pervasive misconduct over several years,” according to an investigation by the Commerce Department’s inspector general.
The watchdog found at least one employee in the Census Bureau’s employment office who “used his official position as a personal hiring vehicle for friends and their families.”
That employee, who was not identified, “was involved in a sexual relationship” with a contractor he personally interviewed, hired and supervised.
He also launched a year-long campaign to get a job at the Census Bureau for his friend’s son, an effort that was apparently unsuccessful.
The inspector general found that dozens of employees claimed to have worked at least 19,162 hours during which they actually did not work at all between 2010-14. The “time and attendance abuse” drained nearly $1.1 million.
But after a whistleblower alerted the agency watchdog to the billing scheme, census officials attempted to “intimidate” anyone who was cooperating with the inspector general investigation.
Another unnamed employee repeatedly called the whistleblower a “coward” and a “chickens—,” among other names.
“At an office social event held for a [census employment office] employee, this employee held a knife in his hand to cut the cake and, while making a stabbing motion with his arm, said something to the effect of, ‘This is for who went to the OIG!'” the inspector general said.
Other employees of the office lied to investigators from the watchdog’s office, violating federal laws that bar officials from making false statements to inspectors general.
Beyond the widespread misconduct, the watchdog found “disturbing” evidence that many staff members were not performing adequate background checks on the prospective employees and contractors of the Census Bureau. For example, the inspector general discovered the staff had shared among themselves their boss’ password, allowing them to sign off on their own work rather than have it verified by management.
You might expect something like this from the Chicago political machine, not the US government. They’re supposed to have checks and balances to prevent this sort of thing. I guess if the manager is stupid enough not to guard his password, anything can happen.
Note the culture of corruption, the intimidation of whistleblowers, and the ease with which the scofflaws were able to game the system. While large corporations have personnel problems, I daresay that regular and detailed audits would have discovered this kind of fraud fairly quickly.
Instead, it took 4 years before the crimes came to light. Whenever I read stories like this, it makes me wonder how many other departments and agencies have similar gamesmanship going on with federal employees. Incompetent management leads to crimes of opportunity and the federal government has that in abundance.