December 15, 2016

Followup on the Department of Energy’s Analytical Services Program

The Department of Energy’s Analytical Services Program ensures that the data acquired from commercial analytical environmental laboratories are valid, reliable, and defensible.  The program also ensures that the treatment and disposal of the Department’s low-level radioactive and mixed waste are in accordance with all applicable regulations and in a manner protective of human health and the environment.  The Analytical Services Program is a corporate program, servicing all Department program line organizations, including the National Nuclear Security Administration.  The Department expended more than $70 million during fiscal year (FY) 2016 for contracted services at commercial environmental analytical laboratories and waste management treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDF).

Our prior report on the Audit of the Department of Energy’s Commercial Laboratory Quality Assurance Evaluation Program (IG-0374, June 1995) disclosed that contractors conducted redundant quality assurance evaluations of commercial laboratories, produced inconsistent results, and did not communicate those results to contractors.  In fact, the report noted that 103 of the 206 quality assurance evaluations reviewed were redundant.  

During our followup audit, we found that the Department had taken corrective actions to address the issues identified in our 1995 report.  We did not identify any redundant audits of commercial analytical laboratories, as previously identified, nor did we identify any redundant audits of TSDFs.  We also found processes in place to ensure consistent results and the communication of those results throughout the Department.  For example, the Department of Energy’s Consolidated Audit Program (DOECAP) shares audit results and program information with Department sites, commercial laboratories, and TSDFs.  In response to our prior recommendations, the Department created the Analytical Services Program, which consists of three component elements:  DOECAP, the Mixed Analyte Performance Evaluation Program, and the Visual Sample Plan.

Nothing came to our attention indicating that the Department was not managing the three program components effectively and efficiently.  However, we identified one area that requires management’s attention.  We found that DOECAP auditors did not always properly handle sensitive unclassified information and used personally owned devices to access, store, and potentially transmit information categorized and marked as Official Use Only (OUO).

Auditors were using personal computers because of restrictions that their sites had placed on access to the Universal Serial Bus ports, commonly referred to as USB ports, on Government-issued laptops.  The Analytical Services Program manager has acknowledged that the use of personally owned devices is an issue throughout the program.  Furthermore, officials stated that the use of personal email to transmit OUO information was possible.  In fact, we identified multiple instances where information marked OUO was sent to a non-Government email address.  Using personal email circumvents the Department’s automated information system, which is used to transmit and store official email and prevents access to OUO information by persons who do not require the information to perform their jobs or other Department-authorized activities.

Topic: Management & Administration