oversight

Final Action Verification - Forest Service Initiatives to Address Workplace Misconduct

Published by the Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General on 2020-07-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States Department of Agriculture




Final Action Verification—Forest
Service Initiatives to Address
Workplace Misconduct




Report 08026-0001-41
                                                OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
June 2020
                              United States Department of Agriculture
                                       Office of Inspector General
                                        Washington, D.C. 20250



DATE:            June 30, 2020

AUDIT
NUMBER:          08026-0001-41

TO:              Stanley McMichael
                 Associate Chief Financial Officer
                 Office of the Chief Financial Officer

FROM:            Gil H. Harden
                 Assistant Inspector General for Audit

SUBJECT:         Final Action Verification—Forest Service Initiatives to Address Workplace
                 Misconduct


The Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed a final action verification (FAV) of all eight
recommendations in our February 11, 2019, report on Forest Service (FS) Initiatives to Address
Workplace Misconduct (Audit Report 08601-0008-41).1 An FAV determines whether the final
action documentation that the audited agency provided to the Office of the Chief Financial
Officer (OCFO) supports the agency’s management decision reached with OIG. 2, 3 Our
objective was to determine whether the documentation FS provided OCFO was sufficient to
close the recommendations made in Audit Report 08601-0008-41.

As of January 21, 2020, OCFO electronically reported to FS and OIG that final action was
complete for all recommendations in the subject audit report. Based on our review of the
documentation received from OCFO, we concur with this decision for all eight
recommendations.




1
  Audit Report 08601-0008-41, Forest Service Initiatives to Address Workplace Misconduct (Feb 11, 2019).
2
  Final action is the completion of all actions that management has concluded, in its management decision, are
necessary with respect to the finding and recommendations included in an audit report. DR 1720-001, 6g(1), Audit
Followup and Management Decision (Nov 2, 2011).
3
  Management decision is an agreement between agency management and OIG on the action(s) taken or to be taken
to address a finding and recommendation cited in an audit report. The management decision must include the
agreed-upon dollar amount affecting the recommendation and an estimated completion date, unless all corrective
action is completed by the time agreement is reached. DR 1720-001, 6i, Audit Followup and Management Decision
(Nov 2, 2011).
Stanley McMichael                                                                              2

Background

Our report, Forest Service Initiatives to Address Workplace Misconduct, made eight
recommendations to help improve FS actions in response to concerns about sexual harassment
and sexual misconduct complaints.

OIG and FS reached management decision on all eight recommendations in a memorandum
dated February 19, 2019. The memorandum detailed corrective actions FS needed to implement
in order to achieve final action on all recommendations.

In accordance with Departmental Regulation 1720-001, OCFO has the responsibility to
determine final action for recommendations where OIG has agreed to management decision.4 As
such, OCFO evaluates agency-provided documentation to support planned corrective actions and
to determine if final action has occurred.

Scope and Methodology

The scope of this FAV was limited to determining whether FS’ plans of action for all
recommendations in the subject report were completed in accordance with the management
decisions reached on February 19, 2019. To accomplish our objective, we reviewed the
documentation of corrective actions FS submitted to OCFO. We did not perform internal control
testing or make site visits to determine whether the underlying deficiencies that were initially
identified have been corrected. In addition, we did not provide an opinion on the results of the
implementation or effectiveness of each recommendation. As a result, this verification was not
conducted in accordance with Government Auditing Standards, issued by the Comptroller
General of the United States, or the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation, issued by
the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Instead, this FAV was conducted
in accordance with our internal guidance IG-7710, Non-audit Work5 and Final Action
Verification—Guidance and Procedures.6 Before we performed this non-audit service, we
determined that following our guidance would not impair our independence to perform audits,
inspections, attestation engagements, or any other future or ongoing reviews of the subject.




4
  DR 1720-001, 7d(6), Audit Followup and Management Decision (Nov 2, 2011).
5
  IG-7710, Non-audit Work (Sep 20, 2018).
6
  USDA OIG Final Action Verification Guidance and Procedures (May 2019).
Stanley McMichael                                                                                   3

Results of Final Action Verification

We determined that FS provided sufficient documentation to OCFO to close the eight
recommendations we made in our February 11, 2019, audit report on Forest Service Initiatives to
Address Workplace Misconduct. The table below summarizes the action FS took with respect to
each recommendation.

We informed FS officials of the results of this FAV.


 Rec. No.               Recommendation                               Action Taken
     1       Provide additional training and            FS provided OCFO with a letter from the
             guidance on the MSPB and OPM               Office of the Chief to agency supervisory
             guidelines regarding their                 personnel, dated May 30, 2019, which
             responsibility to provide complete and     emphasized the agency’s responsibility
             accurate information to hiring officials   to conduct reference checks on
             when asked for references on current       candidates for positions and to respond
             and former FS employees seeking            accurately to reference checks. FS also
             employment or promotions within FS.        prepared an online course titled Checking
             The training and guidance should also      Employment References—Best Practices
             cover privacy and liability concerns       for Forest Service Hiring Officials. This
             when disclosing employee                   course covered privacy and liability
             information.                               concerns when disclosing employee
                                                        information. All FS managers and
                                                        supervisors were required to complete
                                                        this training by July 31, 2019.
     2       Add, to the standardized list of           FS provided OCFO with a reference heck
             questions that hiring officials ask the    template with questions to be asked of
             supervisors of current and former          supervisors of current and former
             FS employees applying for positions        employees applying for positions within
             within the agency, questions about         the FS. The template now includes
             whether applicants have a prior history    questions (No. 10) to determine if job
             of serious misconduct, the nature of       applicants have a history of misconduct,
             the misconduct, and their suitability      the nature of the misconduct, and their
             for the position despite the               suitability for the position despite the
             misconduct.                                misconduct.
Stanley McMichael                                                                                    4

 Rec. No.              Recommendation                                Action Taken
    3       Add, to the standardized list of           FS provided OCFO with an interview
            questions that hiring officials ask the    template, which contains questions to be
            applicants applying for positions          asked of persons applying for positions
            within FS, questions about whether         within the FS. The template now
            applicants have a prior history of         includes questions (No. 6) about whether
            serious misconduct, the nature of the      applicants were ever disciplined for
            misconduct, and their suitability for      misconduct and, if so, the nature of the
            the position despite the misconduct.       misconduct. The template also contains
                                                       questions designed to determine
                                                       applicants’ suitability for the position.
    4       Establish guidelines for hiring            FS provided OCFO with instructions that
            officials to contact human resources       direct hiring officials contact FS Human
            management to determine whether            Resources, Employee Relations staff if it
            current or former employees                is determined that current or former
            (including seasonal employees)             employees applying for positions within
            applying for positions within FS have      FS have prior histories of misconduct.
            prior histories of serious misconduct      This action is to be taken before moving
            and the nature of the misconduct.          forward with a selection for the subject
                                                       position.
    5       Require FS supervisors and managers        FS provided OCFO with a memo
            to formally acknowledge their              outlining supervisors’ and managers’
            responsibility to report all allegations   responsibility to report all allegations of
            of sexual harassment and sexual            sexual harassment and/or sexual
            misconduct within the required             misconduct within 24-hours, as required
            24-hour timeframe and record this          in FSM 1765.08. In addition, FS
            acknowledgement.                           officials created an acknowledgement
                                                       and certification in AgLearn that
                                                       documents supervisory officials’
                                                       understanding of this requirement.
Stanley McMichael                                                                                  5

 Rec. No.             Recommendation                               Action Taken
    6       Provide additional training and          FS provided OCFO with a copy of FS’
            guidance to FS supervisors and           Anti-Harassment Leader Guide and
            managers on their roles and              Quick Reference Sheet, which includes
            responsibilities regarding the 24-hour   guidance on their roles and
            reporting requirement.                   responsibilities regarding the 24-hour
                                                     reporting requirement. FS provided
                                                     OCFO with DM 4040-412-002, dated
                                                     July 25, 2014, which includes
                                                     requirements to complete new supervisor
                                                     training. FS also provided a letter, dated
                                                     May 21, 2018, in which the FS Chief
                                                     required that all FS employees participate
                                                     in a day long anti-harassment training
                                                     titled Stand Up for Each Other. To
                                                     supplement this, FS provided a listing of
                                                     44,133 FS employees who certified their
                                                     attendance at this training.
    7       Establish guidelines to ensure that      FS provided OCFO with a memo
            those FS supervisors and managers        outlining supervisors’ and managers’
            who do not timely report sexual          responsibility to report all allegations of
            harassment and sexual misconduct         sexual harassment and/or sexual
            allegations within the required          misconduct within 24-hours, as required
            24-hour timeframe are disciplined,       in FSM 1765.08 (guidelines). In
            when appropriate.                        addition, FS officials created an
                                                     acknowledgement and certification in
                                                     AgLearn that documents supervisory
                                                     officials’ understanding of this
                                                     requirement. The acknowledgement and
                                                     certification contains punitive language
                                                     directed at those who do not comply with
                                                     the requirement to timely report
                                                     allegations of sexual harassment or
                                                     sexual misconduct.
Stanley McMichael                                                                                  6

 Rec. No.              Recommendation                               Action Taken
    8       Establish internal guidelines that will   FS provided OCFO with a letter from the
            ensure FS officials document in the       Office of the Chief to agency supervisory
            case file their justification when        personnel, dated May 30, 2019, which
            deviating from the recommended            cites the USDA Guide for Disciplinary
            penalty.                                  Penalties as providing a framework for
                                                      consistent application of discipline and
                                                      includes a section for sexual misconduct.
                                                      This document indicates officials will be
                                                      required to submit a written justification
                                                      for any deviation from the minimum
                                                      recommended penalties, which must be
                                                      included in the Human Resources
                                                      Management Employee Relations case
                                                      file.

cc: Hope Woodward, Forest Service OIG Audit Liaison
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