Report finds nepotism alive and well at Department of Energy

Nepotism is alive and well at the Department of Energy, according to a new report by a government watchdog group.

A senior official in the department used his position to secure competitive internships in 2012 for his three college-aged children. In addition, the report found, the senior staffer didn’t think he had done anything wrong and defended his actions to investigators, saying doling out favors for family members is a common practice in the department.

The report did not identify the senior official by name.

The internships were part of the Student Temporary Employment Program which gives high school and college students real work experience. All three of the official’s children were hired by the Energy Department program offices as interns.

While the report, “Alleged Nepotism and Wasteful Spending in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” by the office of the Inspector General, highlights allegations of nepotism it doesn’t take a side on more serious charges that the DOE official also enrolled his children in expensive training programs.

Further, the report finds that the official rounded down the number of people he claimed to talk to about securing internships for his children.

“During the interview, the senior official states that he recalled contacting four officials from various program offices to inquire about STEP employment for his children. Through an examination of the official’s e-mail records and interviews with various program officials, we discovered that the official made contact with a total of 12 officials,” the report stated.

Among the 12 people contacted were a high level “human capital” official and a senior official in the office of the chief information officer.

“The contacted program office decided to reverse its previously announced decision to not hire interns during FY 2012 and subsequently hired one of the senior official’s children as a STEP intern,” the report said.

The report says that while many officials within the department told us they thought jockeying for an internship for family members was a common practice, others told investigators they found the practice “problematic.”

And it’s not like the government officials didn’t know better.

The Energy Department gives its employees annual ethics training that  "outlined prohibitions against attempts to influence decisions that could result in personal gain.”

In March 2009, the department sent out a mass e-mail with the subject: “Ethics in Brief- Nepotism,” which cautioned employees on possible nepotism violations and provided examples “addressing the appropriate role for a federal employee in supporting a relative’s employment.”

A March 2010 e-mail cautioned employees against “Misuse of Position,” noting that “empoyees 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 report says the department is considering "appropriate corrective action" but offers no specifics. Relatives of other officials -- including one in the inspector general's office -- also got summer jobs at the agency.