It's the sort of storyline fit for a National Lampoon sex comedy--not
the federal government. Regulators in charge of overseeing offshore
drilling cruised porn sites, shook off crystal meth hangovers, and
accepted lavish gifts from oil and gas companies, according
to an Interior Department report
. The agency at issue is the
Minerals Management Service. At its Louisiana branch, where the Gulf oil spill
continues to cause an
environmental catastrophe, the inspector general found "a culture where
the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies was widespread."
- C'mon, Regulators! sighs Dan Indiviglio at The Atlantic:
"What is it with bureaucrats and pornography? Last month, we learned that some SEC employees were busy surfing
porn when they should have been discovering fraud or preventing the
financial crisis. When will the government put some filters on its
computers? Of course, the real question here is why government
regulators don't just fail to do their jobs, but strive to fail so
spectacularly? The report blames nepotism. It says most of the problem
employees were hired more due to connections than actual knowledge or
experience in the industry."
- Here Comes the Cleanup Crew, writes
Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company:
"This is all a huge embarrassment to the federal government, which is
why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced that he is
splitting the MMS into three agencies: the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the
Office of Natural Resources Revenue. By separating the offices
responsible for safety enforcement and revenue collection, the
government hopes to stop corruption. But with MMS employees and oil
company employees sharing such cozy relationships -- even from
childhood, in many examples -- it's not far-fetched to think of the
agency's reorganization as the bureaucratic version of dispersant on a
gushing oil spill. Contained. Reshuffled. But bound to bubble up again."
Will Persist, writes Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones:
"The IG claims that the unseemly ties between industry and Lake Charles'
MMS regulators are things of the past, having been severed in the wake
of the January 2007 firing of an inspector who'd taken gifts from an oil
company. But some inspectors could have gotten better at hiding their
ties to the good 'ol boys. After all, it's hard to imagine a change of
heart on the part of some former inspectors cited in the report. Asked
by a Conoco Phillips employee in an email exchange if he ever takes
bribes, one former inspector said he didn't, but added that he does take
'gifts' from 'good friends that I wouldn't write up anyway.'"
One Way to Fix This Problem, writes Mike Labossiere at Talking Philosophy: "Regulations can
only be as good as the people who enforce them (or fail to do so). A
country could have very good laws, but the folks who are supposed to
implement them could lack the will or the desire to do so. This could be
due to moral weakness on the part of the enforcers or some other
factors (such as a lack of support on the part of the law makers). The
solution to this problem involves getting ethical and competent people
into such positions and taking steps to ensure that they do not succumb
to corruption or frustration."
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