Report: Nepotism is an ‘open and widely accepted’ practice at the Energy Department

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

A report released last week by the Energy Department’s inspector general found that nepotism within the department has become an “open and widely accepted” practice, which has resulted in the relatives of department officials getting their relatives employment at the DOE.

“Despite the Department’s ethics program and information regarding prohibited personnel practices, advocating for the selection of relatives appears to have become an open and widely accepted Departmental practice,” reads the inspector general’s report.

The report found that a senior Energy Department official used his influence to get his three college-aged children internships within the department. All three of his children were employed by the DOE, and two of them ended up working in the same department as their father — the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

A DOE March 2010 broadcast email cautioned employees against “Misuse of Position,” specifically noting that “…employees shall not use their government position, title or authority in a manner intended to induce another to provide benefit to…relatives or affiliated persons.”

The senior level official contacted a total of twelve officials trying to get his kids internships, one of whom was a high level official in Human Capital. Investigators also found that one department reversed a decision not to hire interns for 2012 after the senior level official contacted them.

However, the senior level official told investigators that he believed it was common practice for DOE officials to provide resumes or inquire about getting an internship within the department on behalf of relatives. More importantly, investigators were told by various other DOE officials that this was the case.

“[Two DOE officials who made hiring decisions] also indicated that they believed it was a common practice for individuals to provide resumes or to inquire with various program offices in an effort to secure STEP intern employment opportunities for relatives,” reads the report. “These officials stated that they did not believe there was a violation of nepotism rules or other personnel prohibited practices such as misuse of position unless the STEP intern reported directly to their relative.”

The Associated Press notes: “Relatives of other officials — including one in the inspector general’s office — also got summer jobs at the agency.”

“Nepotism or even its appearance can have a decidedly negative impact on morale within an organization,” reads the report. “As is readily apparent, providing inappropriate advantages for relatives of Federal employees damages the integrity of the competitive process and erodes public trust in the Federal hiring process.”

The DOE has promised to investigate this matter further and take steps to ensure this type of behavior stops, according to the report.

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