Monthly Archives: June, 2010

Overhauled MMS slaps $5.2 million fine on BP


The revamped Minerals Management Service is wasting no time showing the oil and natural gas industry that a new day has dawned. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — created last month in the wake of April’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — assessed a $5.2 million civil penalty on BP America for submitting “false, inaccurate and misleading reports” about energy production on Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands in southwestern Colorado, bureau director Michael Bromwich said today. BP reported incorrect royalty rates and prices to the department and also attributed oil and gas…

You too can own swag from a disgraced, defunct agency!


You remember the Minerals Management Service, right? The agency that completely failed to properly oversee oil rig operations? Employees literally in bed with oil company representatives, jacked up on crystal meth while on the job? Fell on its sword after BP’s Deepwater rig exploded and sank, causing a still-ongoing environmental catastrophe? Now you can own a piece of it. The watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility this morning announced they’re auctioning off a wide assortment of tchotchkes from MMS. And we’ve got to hand it to them: their snark is top-notch. PEER has 16 items for auction, starting at…

Bernstock update: Postal sole-source contracting rules tightened


The scandal involving former U.S. Postal Service executive Robert Bernstock has yielded what appear to be some big changes to the rules governing sole-source contracts. Postal Service spokeswoman Joanne Veto just sent me some amended contracting rules that were published this week in response to the Office of Inspector General’s investigation: • First, most postal executives will no longer be able to approve their own department’s sole-source contracts worth more than $1 million. From now on, seven-figure deals awarded noncompetitively must be approved by Vice President for Supply Management Susan Brownell. Under the old rules, all noncompetitive contracts worth more…

Corporate giants with hearts of gold


Corporate Responsibility Magazine released today its list of the top 10 “best corporate citizens” in government contracting. The magazine took the top 100 contractors listed on and applied the same methodology it uses to produce its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list. (The necessary information was available only for the 37 publicly traded companies on the list.) Firms are judged on their environmental impact, employee relations, corporate governance, financial responsibility, philanthropy, and human-rights policies. And, drum roll please … the best corporate citizen in government contracting for 2010 is … Hewlett-Packard!!! Well, good for them. Rounding out the top…

Read the postal OIG report on Robert Bernstock


The U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General today released its report on former marketing executive Robert Bernstock in response to a Federal Times Freedom of Information Act request. Our story on his alleged staffing and contracting abuses just went online here, but you can download the entire report by clicking here. Our original stories that broke the news on four sole-source contracts he steered to associates he called “friends” can be found here and here. Bernstock announced his resignation May 12 and he officially left the agency June 4.

More on OMB's performance reviews


Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel management, issued a memo on performance management today that didn’t seem to say much beyond previously announced plans to meet with agencies on their high-priority goals and set up a website to track agencies’ performance. One interesting line, though, was this one: “Agencies should consider this year a transition year during which OMB and the [Performance Improvement Council] will move to a more dynamic performance planning, management, improvement, and reporting framework that is useful, streamlined and coherent.” This seems to indicate that OMB is going to establish some kind of performance-management…

OMB to halt 30 financial systems projects


The Office of Management and Budget is going to announce today that it’s halting all financial systems modernization projects across the government. That means 30 projects worth $20 billion are now effectively on hold until OMB can come up with a way to improve the procurement process in this area. The most well-known failure in this area is the Veterans Affairs Department’s CoreFLS project (since replaced by a new program called FLITE that hasn’t gone much better). The department has spent a total of about $300 million on this boondoggle over 10 years and has seen no tangible benefits. Jeff…

Federal agencies of yesteryear


NPR’s Planet Money blog has a cute little rundown of federal agencies that have changed their names in the past, prompted by the Minerals Management Service’s rebranding as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (try to say that acronym three times fast). This sort of thing intrigues me so I Googled around a bit and found a nice list on Wikipedia of defunct federal agencies. Anyone remember the Board of Tea Appeals (which apparently hung around until 1996, somehow?!)? How about the Board of Economic Warfare? The Federal Theatre Project? Oh, for the days when a fed…

Interior's website goes back in time


Visitors to might feel like they’ve entered a time warp. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill never occurred, the Minerals Management Service remains intact and the lead story on the home page is about Interior Secretary Ken Salazar commending employees for all their hard work…in 2009. So who set back the clock? It looks like Interior failed to link together the various iterations of its Web address. Visitors who type in will get the current website, which was overhauled at the beginning of the year. But visitors who type in will see a world that appears to have ended shortly…

They always come in threes…


First Peter Orszag. Then Gen. Stanley McChrystal. And CNN just reported that Kal Penn, better known as Kumar, has officially left the White House. It’s hard to tell which will be the most devastating loss to the administration. Seriously, though, the Washington Post’s Al Kamen has a roundup of potential Orszag replacements here, including current Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. But whoever ends up replacing Orszag will face the thankless task of reducing the nation’s deficit, as Slate’s Christopher Beam details here.

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