The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

IG Finds 30 percent of EPA’s Expensive Research Equipment Sat Idle for Years, Some More Than a Decade

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Nearly $3 million dollars’ worth of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) equipment has been gathering dust in a warehouse, according to a March 16, 2015 Inspector General’s (IG) audit. The EPA IG conducted a review of cost controls in the agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). The IG investigated three of ORD’s fourteen research facilities nationwide: The National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL), the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL), and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL). In the course of their work, ORD reviewed equipment that qualified as “capital equipment,” meaning each piece costs more than $75,000. The ORD reports that it owns nearly $73 million in capital equipment. Over the last two years, the IG has visited those three sites and “determined the date the equipment was last utilized,” among other things. This latest review followed three separate Government Accountability Office and IG reports on this same topic starting in 2011. The results of the review do not inspire confidence:

“The EPA does not manage its scientific equipment as a business unit or enterprise. ORD managers and staff are not aware of federal property management requirements in 41 CFR 101 that require regular equipment inspection walkthroughs every 2 years and equipment pools to maximize utilization. The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act requires regular monitoring to timely identify and dispose of obsolete items. ORD has not created a comprehensive, office-wide scientific equipment list that would make ORD’s resources visible office-wide and agency-wide for key research decision-making. Additionally, ORD does not have clear lines of authority or responsibility over equipment accountability and usage. While the National Asset Manager position is new to ORD within the past 2 years, the current manager said he received no formal training, has had very little coordination with custodial officers, and initially focused on buildings more than equipment."

Of the 99 pieces of capital equipment reviewed, 30 (or 30 percent) hadn’t been utilized for 2 to 14 years. The total cost of the idle equipment stacks up to $2.95 million. The absence of a sufficient cost control system at the ORD is certainly problematic. But, the fact that this general issue had been raised to the agency on multiple occasions going back four years is emblematic of the culture of waste that CAGW (and others) keep talking about, year in and year out. For what it’s worth, the ORD has agreed to impediment the IG’s recommendations which are due for completion in October of this year. Keep in mind, according to The Oversight and Government Reform Committee, there are 16,906 IG recommendations that have also been forgotten, left idle, and remain unimplemented by federal agencies….so don’t hold your breath. They may need to ask Indiana Jones for help instead… [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5bQyF5l4Zo[/embed]

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