From solidifying its drug policy to cracking down on office furniture thefts, the Architect of the Capitol has some work to do, according to the agency’s inspector general.
In its semiannual report to Congress covering April through September of this year, the AOC inspector general’s office identified a number of oversight gaps that have resulted in financial losses and illegal activity.
The office received a record 93 complaints during this six-month period alleging “fraud, waste and abuse in AOC operations,” according to the report. The report also stated that the AOC’s management has been slow to implement specific recommendations for closing oversight gaps.
The AOC has showed some “signs of improvement,” but the report said it “continue[s] to find that orders put in place to correct findings are not complete, clear, or followed.”
“The AOC needs to hold managers accountable for implementing corrective actions the Agency has accepted,” the report continued.
One cause for concern, according to the report, is the lack of a comprehensive drug policy for AOC employees. The agency issued a formal “Drug Free Workplace Policy” in 1989, but it was never fully implemented, the inspector general’s office found. Specifically, routine drug testing was never put into place.
The office discovered this discrepancy between policy and practice after learning that an AOC employee had provided the hallucinogenic drug phencyclidine to a co-worker, who upon smoking “a PCP-laced cigarette subsequently required medical attention.”
The inspector general’s office, which was created in 2007 and is led by Carol Bates, has recommended to management that it update its drug policy and require mandatory drug testing. A management decision is due in March, though Mike Culver, the director of communications and congressional relations at the AOC, this week generally defended the policy currently in place.
“The AOC has had an effective drug free workforce policy since 1989,” he said in a statement. “Management will consider the AOC IG’s recommendation to further enhance one provision in the policy.”
Another area the inspector general’s office continues to express concern about is the AOC’s controls, or lack thereof, over Senate furniture inventory.
In the previous semiannual report to Congress, the inspector general’s team determined that an AOC furniture branch employee on the Senate side stole an estimated $13,570 worth of Senate-owned tables and chairs to resell to a used furniture dealer in Virginia.
“The AOC did not concur with our recommendation to improve controls when furniture is returned from use to inventory, and furniture return procedures were not addressed” in management’s response, according to the IG’s report. “We continue to note that there is a gap in policy with regard to accountability for returned furniture.”
Management is preparing to issue revised policies to strengthen inventory controls, Culver told CQ Roll Call, that align with “all but one recommendation made by the AOC IG.”
“Management felt the revised standard operating procedures will adequately address the intent and objectives behind this one objective, essentially addressing the recommendation through a different approach.”
The inspector general’s report acknowledged that the AOC’s decision to install GPS trackers in furniture trucks and include all furniture with a value of $1,500 or greater to inventory will help alleviate some oversight gaps.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.