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The Energy Department’s Budget Has Few Mistakes, And They’re Worth Billions

Department of Energy officials might want to take a few more accounting classes after they miscalculated their budgets by a few billion dollars.

Department officials missed on their 2015 fiscal year budget forecasts by overestimating more than $2 billion for some programs, while calculating $1 billion less needed for others, according to a report recently released by the agency’s inspector general. Those figures don’t include the more than $2 billion overstatement for payments related to employees diseased from their work with radioactive materials.

The agency “incorrectly calculated” costs for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, the report said. “Specifically, officials incorrectly overstated these … in the amount of $2.28 billion.”

“The error in calculation was not identified during the review process and the incorrect amount was posted to the general ledger,” it continued. The mistake was corrected on Sept. 30, 2015.

Energy Department managers, however, disagreed that the more than $2 billion error was a “significant deficiency,” the report said.

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The Energy Department also had other large-figure miscalculations. For example, the agency’s Office of Environmental Management, which is involved with tasks such as cleaning contaminated soil and facilities, overestimated more than $931 million for programs like technology development.

The office made mistakes in its spreadsheet, among other errors, according to the IG.

The agency’s environmental management analysts “did not perform a detailed review over the calculations … to ensure that the estimates … were properly calculated,” the report said.

The agency’s Portsmouth Paducah Project Office underestimated the cost to throw away oxide because officials “did not coordinate with the disposal site to determine if the estimate included the correct disposal costs for the volume of waste,” the report stated.

In other words, Energy Department officials didn’t ask how much it would cost to get rid of oxide, causing an underestimate of around $377 million.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management “did not include the demolition cost for” four retired buildings, the report said. “As a result, as of Sept. 30, 2014, the department understated its active facilities liability by $525.2 million.”

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