NNSA may take more action in ethics scandal

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Lab > Final DOE Inspector General report finally released

By The Staff

The official DOE Inspector General report finally came out last week regarding the ethics scandal involving former Los Alamos National Laboratory deputy director Beth Sellers, who resigned March 7.
The Los Alamos Monitor reported last month that Sellers was the subject of a draft IG report that revealed Sellers and husband William failed to notify lab officials of a potential conflict of interest. William Sellers eventually was awarded a sole-source contract and according to the report, he billed the lab for work that was never performed.
In the final report, there is a response from acting NNSA administrator Bruce Held regarding the investigation.
Held listed the corrective actions the lab had made in regard to the situation.
Then he said, “findings identified in this report were considered in developing the
 lab’s FY13 Performance Evaluation Report and we are evaluating whether any additional management action may be necessary given the results of the Inspsectors’ review.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure our federal and contractor staff adheres to the highest standards for ethical conduct and will ensure that lessons learned from this incident are shared across the nuclear security enterprise.”
Some of the LANL corrective actions included, according to the report:
• In May 2013, LANL formed a review team to prescreen all requests for service contracts to be awarded to individuals having near-relative or spouses working at the lab.
• LANL’s Ethics and Audits Group issued a communication to lab management reemphasizing the conflict of interest disclosure procedures and the requirement to obtain prior approval to enter into subcontracts with spouses of LANL employees. Also, as noted in the report, the lab has reimbursed the government all amounts paid to the consultant. Finally we note that the employee recognized their lapse in judgment and voluntarily resigned.
• The LA Field office has supervised the implementation of the recommended corrective actions and will engage in ongoing oversight to evaluate the sustained effectiveness of these corrective actions.
The report, meanwhile, came up with the following conclusions.
“The allegations were substantiated. We found that LANL inappropriately awarded a sole source consultant agreement to an individual who was the spouse of a senior LANL manager,” the report said. “We also discovered that the consultant did not disclose his spousal relationship with the senior LANL manager at the time of award. In addition, the senior manager did not notify LANL ethics officials or her superior of a potential conflict of interest involving her spouse’s consulting agreement until 5 months after the consultant agreement was awarded.”
Also in the report:
• Work was performed before the consultant agreement was signed. Specifically, the consultant was paid $4,700 for services performed prior to the award of the consultant agreement; and
• The consultant charged for work that was not performed. Specifically, the consultant charged two hours for a discussion on environmental matters that never took place. These two events were included in the initial $13,800 invoice submitted to LANL by the consultant.
• Prior to referring these issues to the Office of Inspector General, the Los Alamos Field Office brought its concerns to the attention of LANS. Subsequently, LANS determined that the consultant agreement did not conform to prescribed LANL procedures and processes. As a result, LANS reimbursed the Federal government $23,100, the total amount paid to the consultant. LANS officials also indicated that they had initiated corrective actions intended to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.