DorobekInsider.com

Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

DorobekInsider.com: Denett’s Interior connection

leave a comment »

We’ve all been watching the case of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. (More here.) The Interior Department’s inspector general last week found that the government officials in charge of collecting billions of dollars worth of royalties from oil and gas companies accepted gifts, steered contracts to favored clients and engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees of the energy firms, federal investigators.

Three interesting tidbits here.

One, as I read in Federal Times, is the small world connection. Former OFPP Administrator Paul Denett’s wife, Ludy Denett, is the former associate director of Interior’s Minerals Revenue Management agency, a component of MMS.

A report by the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office describes wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), an agency that collects royalties from oil and gas projects on federal lands. The two highest-ranking employees named in the investigation are Lucy Denett, the former associate director of the Minerals Revenue Management agency, a component of MMS; and Gregory Smith, the former director of the Minerals Revenue Management’s royalty-in-kind program, which collects royalties in the form of oil and gas rather than cash…

Denett allegedly steered two contracts for technical advisory services to Jimmy Mayberry, a former Senior Executive Service employee at the agency, after he retired in 2002. The contracts totaled about $1.1 million over five years. Denett is married to Paul Denett, a longtime federal procurement executive who recently stepped down as the Office of Management and Budget’s head of federal procurement policy.

It’s important to remember that these are allegations right now. There almost always is a rush to judge — and the facts also evolve over time.

Secondly, I’m always interested in how agencies handle these kinds of high-profile content. For the Interior Department’s IG office, it is just like any other document and, therefore, it can be difficult to find. I, of course, did a Google search of Interior Department IG, found the IG’s main page, and then had to look under 2008 reports. The report, is listed as “[C-EV-MMS-0001-2008] Minerals Management Service Royalty-In-Kind Oil Sales Process.” (Sexy title, hmm?) From there, there is a link to a PDF and text file.

To the Interior’s (partial) credit, I went back to the Interior Department’s home page and they have put Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s response to the case, including posting it as a audio podcast, and they also have posted a link to the IG reports, although not the specific report.

Finally, I always find it interesting how people react to these kinds of incidents. Harvard Prof. Steve Kelman has been very conerned about the culture of hyper-oversight. I have shared that concern mostly because of the impact that the hyper-oversight has on how people do their jobs. The oversight of the oversight has led to a hyper-risk adverse culture in government — we simply don’t tolerate mistakes.

Over on Steve Kelman’s FCW.com blog, The Lecturn, somebody calling themselves “Lisa Simpson” made this comment:

Prof. Kelman, I have been thinking a lot about the climate of fear that you hope doesn’t descend on the contracting world and was so happy to read about Paul Denett’s wife at MMS — they showed us all how to get down, and operate without fear. Way to go MMS! PARTY! PARTY!

It’s important to be clear — illeagal activities are… well, they’re illegal. And if people do illegal things, they ought to be prosecuted. There is a difference between illegal activities and what is often simply a difference of opinion about how to handle issues. (I’d point to the SunMicrosystems schedule contract issue as a case in point.)

In the end, most people do what they are supposed to do and we need to trust them — and go after those who don’t. The question is what is the proper role of oversight — and how can oversight actually help get the job done. To me right now, it seems that oversight often gets in the way of getting the job done.

Written by cdorobek

September 22, 2008 at 9:25 AM

Posted in oversight

Tagged with , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: