Nomination Hearing Kendall


OCTOBER 20, 2015

Madam Chairman, Ranking Member Cantwell, and members of this Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I am honored to be considered by this Committee for confirmation as the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior (DOI).

I have been privileged to be a part of the senior executive corps for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for 16 years, the last 6 ½ as the leader of this fine organization. During that tenure, the OIG has had 195 convictions, $4.5 billion in criminal fines, penalties, and restitution, over $119 million in questioned costs, and $55 million in funds put to better use. On average over the past five years, the OIG for DOI ranked fifth for Return-on-Investment among the 72 Federal OIGs1. My leadership style, underpinned by employing dignity and respect, has proven effective in motivating the OIG workforce to conduct meaningful work, produce influential reports, and effect significant change in the programs and operations of DOI, and which put the OIG in the top 15% of the “Best Places to Work” in 20142.

Recently, I have had the pleasure to meet with many of the Committee members, and/or your staff. I appreciate your time and consideration. We have discussed many issues, some dear to the hearts of your constituents, some which you embrace with enormous passion, and some that have made me and my nomination subject to controversy and criticism.

I have addressed the controversies that have followed me from the House Committee on Natural Resources with some of you, directly and candidly, in discussion, and with the information I provided to this Committee. (I incorporate my 8/2/12 and 9/11/14 testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources for reference.) Whether I have done so to your individual satisfaction, I do not know. What I do know is that throughout, I have been true to myself, my principles, my best judgment, and the law. My personal style, to engage in civil discourse even when addressing difficult issues, has been criticized by some as being too accommodating of the Department of the Interior. Civility, in my experience, however, is not an accommodation, but rather, a strong and effective tool in communicating with and holding DOI accountable.

I have led the OIG to provide constructive critique to effect positive change in the Department programs and operations. One important result of this approach has been that the Department, through the Secretary, her senior staff, and that of the bureaus, routinely turn to the OIG to address management issues of concern, and concerns about potential wrongdoing. In fact, even members of the House Resources Committee (former Chairman Hastings, and present Chairman Bishop) urged the Secretary in November 2014 to turn an inquiry—one into the use of the Brinkerhoff Lodge in the Grand Teton National Park—over to the OIG, saying the Department did not have “the independence, experience, and tools required to conduct a thorough investigation…” which signals a level of trust in the work of my office.

Coming to this hearing, I have both the benefit and the burden of having a track record as the Acting Inspector General, and as such, I have made certain legal, policy, and management decisions that have not always been well received by some members of Congress, some members of my staff, some members of the public, and some officials of the Department and the Administration. Although I sometimes joke, it is with more than a touch of seriousness, when I say: if I am making everyone a little bit unhappy, I am probably doing my job.

As with many things in life, having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I may have made some of those decisions differently. Yet, in the moment, I have always acted on conscience and principle; guided by the best information available at the time; with the advice of trusted and tested advisors; and with integrity, independence, and objectivity as my guides. I have conducted myself not only in the best interest of the OIG for Interior, but also in the best interest of the greater IG community, both of which have provided me unflagging support, not only in my 6 years leading the OIG, but during my entire tenure in the IG community.

I do not expect to convince you by my words here, alone, of my independence and objectivity. Rather, I point to some of the most influential work the OIG has done, totaling well over 500 reports issued since my leadership began in 2009.

This work has spanned from violence prevention at Indian schools to the dangers posed by abandoned mines. It has included numerous investigations of ethical violations and crimes committed by Department officials at all levels, as well as by contract and grant recipients. We have examined health and safety threats against the well-being of millions of visitors to DOI’s parks and recreational facilities. We have thoroughly reviewed the status of safety and infrastructure integrity at the nation’s dams and bridges for which DOI bureaus are responsible. Our energy teams have performed work resulting in: the recovery of millions of dollars in royalties and revenues; assurance that the Federal government and Indian tribes are receiving their fair share of royalties for the mineral operations on federal and Indian lands; uncovering weaknesses in the Department’s renewable energy programs; constructive critique for the improvement of the management of oil and gas leases on federal land and the Outer Continental Shelf; and the record-breaking multi-billion dollar civil and criminal penalties against the companies responsible for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, the greatest environmental disaster in this nation’s history. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the 5 Gulf States announced a $20.8 billion civil settlement with BP, the largest settlement with a single entity in DOJ history.

As these examples demonstrate, the depth and breadth of the programs in the Department of the Interior are both vast and complex. Under my leadership, the OIG has focused its attention and resources on the highest risk and highest priority issues in the Department, and to address areas of greatest vulnerability to fraud, mismanagement, and misuse of Federal funds. This means, however, that certain things will necessarily go unaddressed. But with a staff of approximately 275 employees, a robust Hotline, a dedicated Whistleblower Protection advocate, and an aggressive Fraud Awareness and Outreach program, the OIG has the eyes and ears of the roughly 70,000 DOI employees and another 70,000 DOI contractors and grantees on our side with the objective of preventing and detecting fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

Madam Chairman and members of this Committee, I sit before you today as a career civil servant for over 29 years. I sincerely believe that public service is a public trust, requiring me, and my fellow public servants, to place loyalty to the Constitution, the law, and ethical principles above private gain. I have no other ambition than to continue my public service with dignity and respect for our employees and our stakeholders. I believe in the mission of the Inspectors General, I am committed to the OIG for Interior, and, if confirmed, I will continue to do the very best job I can to lead this respected organization in its ongoing efforts to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the Department of the Interior.

Thank you for your attention and consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.



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