September 29, 2023

The Department of Energy’s Oversight of the Employee Concerns Program

Within the Department of Energy, the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security provides management and administration of the Department’s Employee Concerns Program (ECP) a platform for the free and open expression of concerns for Federal, contractor, and subcontractor employees, as well as an independent and formal avenue to raise those concerns and to support a safety culture where employee concerns can be promptly identified and resolved without fear of reprisal or retaliation.  Department Order 442.1B, Department of Energy Employee Concerns Program (Order), developed by the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security, establishes the criteria and processes to maintain a consistent ECP across the Department.  The Office of Enterprise Assessments provides Department management, Congress, and other stakeholders with an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of Department policy and management performance in safety, security, and other critical areas including the ECP.  

We initiated this inspection to assess the Department’s compliance with the requirements of the Order.

We determined that the Department’s ECP Managers have not completed all requirements identified in the Order.  Specifically, ECP Managers did not develop and submit implementation plans and have not always conducted self-assessments, as required.  Additionally, we determined that the ECP Director only partially developed, promulgated, and implemented ECP requirements in accordance with the Order.  The ECP Director has not conducted site visits to help the Department ECP Managers share best practices and implement ECPs.  Finally, we determined that the ECP database, as currently utilized, is not sufficient to track and trend agency-wide employee concerns.

The issues we identified occurred, in part, because roles and responsibilities in the Order are not defined in a manner that ensures Department personnel comply with the intent of the Order. 

This report contains five recommendations that, if fully implemented, should help ensure compliance with the Order.  Management agreed with our findings and recommendations, and its proposed corrective actions are consistent with our recommendations.