Sunday, September 14, 2008

a culture of ethical failure?

WASHINGTON: As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal - including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

The culture of the organization "appeared to be devoid of both the ethical standards and internal controls sufficient to protect the integrity of this vital revenue-producing program," one report said.

The director of the Minerals Management Service, Randall Luthi, said in a conference call with reporters that the officials implicated in the reports had violated the public's trust.

Based in suburban Denver and modeled to operate like a private-sector energy company, the decade-old royalty-in-kind program sells oil and gas on the open market. Its employees are subject to government ethics rules, such as restrictions on taking gifts from people and companies with whom they conduct official business.

One of the reports says that the officials viewed themselves as exempt from those limits, indulging themselves in the expense-account-fueled world of oil and gas executives.