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 Learn more about USDA OIG Visit our website: www.usda.gov/oig Follow us on Twitter: @OIGUSDA Report Suspected Wrongdoing in USDA Programs OIG Hotline: www.usda.gov/oig/hotline.htm Local / Washington, D.C. (202) 690-1622 Outside D.C. 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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)