WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced that the Department of the Interior and Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) have accepted the four recommendations offered last week by Interior’s Inspector General in three separate investigative reports on certain MMS employees, including those in the MMS’s Royalty In Kind (RIK) program. Kempthorne made the announcement today during testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources.
“The Inspector General recommended four actions,” Kempthorne said. “We are undertaking all four actions. We have initiated appropriate administrative corrective actions. We have enhanced our ethics program and oversight capacity in Denver where the RIK Program operates. We are crafting a code of conduct. We have implemented organizational changes.”
Kempthorne noted that, after receiving the reports last Wednesday, the Department immediately began corrective administrative action. “Within hours of receiving the Inspector General’s final report, Assistant Secretary [C. Stephen] Allred and [MMS] Director [Randall] Luthi initiated procedures to determine appropriate disciplinary action. We will follow the letter of the law. All employees are long-term career employees and must be afforded due process. I can assure the Committee that this process will be completed as swiftly as possible, and we will examine the full spectrum of disciplinary actions, including termination.”
Kempthorne also announced today the expansion of the Department’s ethics program. “Though these particular problems occurred in the past, I have also decided that the Department should expand its Ethics Office by placing an Attorney- Adviser in Denver, Colorado. This Attorney-Adviser will provide oversight and technical assistance to the Ethics Counselors of the Department’s bureaus to ensure that each of the bureaus’ ethics programs is in compliance with all applicable ethics laws, executive orders, and regulations. Given the extensive Departmental presence in the Denver area and the Rocky Mountain Region, this individual will provide invaluable ethics support and program oversight.”
“The Inspector General has assured me that he believes the behavior described in these reports no longer exists in these programs.” Despite this important fact, Kempthorne announced that the MMS, in line with the Inspector General’s recommendation, had already implemented organizational changes within the RIK program. “On January 20, 2008, a new RIK program manager was appointed. In June 2008, Director Luthi chose a new Associate Director for the Minerals Revenue Management Program, under which the Royalty in Kind program is located. This individual came from outside the Minerals Revenue Management (MRM) program. The Inspector General pointed out that the reporting hierarchy of the RIK Program bypassed the Deputy Associate Director in Denver where the program is located. Instead, the RIK Program management had reported directly to the Associate Director for MRM in Washington, D.C., 1500 miles away. MMS Director Luthi has changed this reporting structure.”
Additionally, Kempthorne announced that the MMS has already begun developing “Code of Conduct” for the RIK program.
Secretary Kempthorne’s full testimony (as prepared for delivery) will be available at www.doi.gov at approximately 10:00 a.m. today.