September 22, 2017

Allegation of Nepotism and Misuse of Position Within the Office of Management

The Office of Management provides the Department of Energy with direction and oversight for management, procurement, and administrative services. The Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (Human Capital) leads the Department on the impact and use of policies and programs related to human capital management. However, while Human Capital provides various hiring related services to program offices, selection authority is vested in individual offices such as the Office of Management.

In the past, the Department has experienced violations of laws and regulations regarding nepotism, misuse of position, and prohibited personnel practices by employees in various program offices seeking employment for their relatives. In June 2016, the Office of Inspector General was informed by senior Office of Management officials that one if its employees (herein identified as “Employee”) within the Office of Policy potentially violated the statute on nepotism and regulations regarding misuse of position when he provided his daughter’s resume to a Headquarters Procurement Services’ (Procurement Services) hiring official within the Office of Management. We initiated this audit to ascertain the facts and circumstances surrounding the attempted hiring action, and to determine whether it was conducted in compliance with Federal laws, regulations, and Departmental policies.

We determined, based on coordination and confirmation from the Department’s Office of the General Counsel, actions taken by the Employee and Procurement Services’ hiring officials resulted in violations of laws and regulations pertaining to prohibited personnel practices and misuse of position. We found that the Employee advocated for employment for his daughter.  Specifically, the Employee provided his daughter’s resume to a Procurement Services’ hiring official and communicated with the hiring official regarding potential Federal employment on at least two occasions. Additionally, we determined that three Procurement Services’ hiring officials demonstrated a loss of impartiality and granted an unauthorized preference to the Employee’s daughter when hiring actions were taken while being aware of the family relationship. Hiring actions included interviewing and recommending employment for the Employee’s daughter.

Based on work performed, we concluded that the Employee violated the regulation governing misuse of position, but the Employee had not violated the statute related to nepotism as alleged in the complaint.  Confirmation received from the Department’s Office of the General Counsel stated that the Employee was not a public official, as defined in Title 5 U.S. Code, Section 3110 (a), and was not subject to the laws pertaining to nepotism. As such, we determined that the Employee could not have violated the statute related to nepotism.

Senior officials within the Office of Management took prompt action to stop the hiring action when notified of the employment selection. The hiring request was also separately flagged by Human Capital’s Human Resources Service Center because the resume was not submitted under, nor did it meet the experience requirements of, the vacancy announcement. Although the hiring issue was identified and dealt with in a timely and proper manner, it raises concerns regarding the hiring practices within the Office of Management, and more specifically Procurement Services, that require immediate attention.

Prohibited personnel practices and misuse of position circumvent the integrity of the competitive hiring process, can damage the effectiveness and morale of an organization, and can erode the public’s trust in the Federal hiring system. Even though the Office of Management took prompt action to identify and address the matter, and the Employee’s daughter was not hired, we identified some issues we believe need to be addressed by the Office of Management and the Acting Chief Human Capital Officer.

To address the specific instance of misuse of position and violations of the prohibited personnel practices described in this report, we made recommendations to the Director of the Office of Management and the Acting Chief Human Capital Officer.  Management concurred with the report’s recommendations and identified a number of actions that were either completed or planned to address our recommendations.

Topic: Human Resources