The Justice Department plans to trim its $29.2 billion proposed 2011 budget by cutting spending on travel, officials announced today.
The DOJ would save about $20 million by tightening its belt on travel expenses and improving management efficiency, according to budget documents. The upshot: officials will likely take fewer trips and spend a shorter amount of time away on official business to save money, according to a DOJ spokesperson.
The fiscal year 2011 budget request calls for $450 million for travel expenses. The DOJ requested the cut because travel expenses increased faster than inflation, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
“We have looked at the Department’s travel practices and we believe we can travel more effectively and efficiently,” Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus told reporters today.
Taking the biggest hit in absolute terms is the 33,000-employee FBI, which is slated for a $10.3 million travel budget cut. The 3-person Office of Dispute Resolution, which facilitates the use of mediation in disputes involving the federal government, will have to squeeze $1,000 from its travel budget.
Here’s the breakdown on the estimated savings, from highest to lowest amounts per agency:
- FBI: $10.3 million
- U.S. Marshals Service: $2.6 million
- Drug Enforcement Administration: $2.1 million
- Bureau of Prisons: $1.5 million
- U.S. Attorneys: $1.2 million
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms: $907,000
- Civil Division: $341,000
- National Security Division: $216,000
- Criminal Division: $210,000
- Executive Office for Immigration Review: $173,000
- Office of Inspector General: $173,000
- Civil Rights Division: $172,000
- Environment and Natural Resources Division: $130,000
- Tax Division: $125,000
- General Administration: $86,000
- Community Relations Service: $43,000
- National Drug Intelligence Center: $43,000
- INTERPOL Washington: $36,000
- Office of the Solicitor General: $13,000
- Office of Legal Counsel: $9,000
- Office of Dispute Resolution: $1,000
Attorney General Eric Holder and other Justice Department leaders have been granted ethics waivers to allow them to review matters related to the botched Sen. Ted Stevens case, the White House disclosed Friday.
A team of Justice lawyers is under investigation for their handling of the public corruption case against the former senator from Alaska. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the charges against Stevens in April after a Justice Department review found that DOJ lawyers hadn’t made potentially exculpatory evidence available to the defense.
A special counsel appointed by Sullivan is conducting a criminal contempt probe of the DOJ lawyers, while the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting a parallel internal ethics review of the case. Two of the DOJ lawyers under scrutiny have hired counsel from the law firms where Holder, Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden were partners.
Administration ethics rules require Justice appointees to recuse themselves from official matters in which their former law firms represent parties. Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington & Burling LLP and Ogden at WilmerHale.
“[T]he particular circumstances surrounding these investigations are unusual, and present important issues even at this early stage of the process,” the letters from Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus said. “It is highly unusual to have an investigation by the court concurrent with an OPR investigation, and it raises jurisdictional issues and questions concerning the authority of the special counsel and the proper relationships between OPR’s investigation and that of the special counsel.”
Patty Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s appellate section, is fighting a civil contempt finding by Judge Sullivan in the Stevens case. She is represented by WilmerHale’s Howard M. Shapiro and Mary Katherine Gardner. It is unclear who is represented by Covington. Covington’s Mark Lynch represents Public Integrity Section chief William Welch II (along with Zuckerman Spaeder LLP’s William Taylor.)
The waivers were issued in May. The White House disclosed them on Friday as part of a transparency effort. Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, explained in a blog post here:
Several months ago, the public interest community suggested that we also make available in a central place limited waivers granted by other federal agencies besides the White House. Today, we are releasing all ten such agency-granted waivers (none of which involve lobbying). The President’s Executive Order calls for an annual report to be completed in early 2010 that will include all waivers granted pursuant to the Order. We are, however, pleased to make all of the pledge waivers granted to date by this Administration available now–more than four months early.
This article has been updated.
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The Justice Department does not have effective measures in place to prevent fraud, abuse and waste in its program to provide compensation for employees with work-related injuries or illnesses, according to a DOJ Office of Inspector General report released today.
Except for the FBI and Bureau of Prisons, all DOJ sections audited by OIG were usually “reactive rather than proactive” in their supervision of Federal Employees’ Compensation Act cases, the report said. The Drug Enforcement Administration was the worst at staying up on FECA cases, according to the report. The DEA failed to provide almost half of the case files the OIG requested.
“Without the necessary documentation related to FECA cases, DOJ FECA specialists are unable to make fully informed decisions regarding these cases,” the report said.
DOJ had the fourth highest rate of injury out of 29 federal agencies between fiscal years 2005 and 2008, according to the report. More than $100 million in fiscal year 2008 went towards paying expenses associated with injuries and illnesses, which places the Justice Department seventh in the ranking of 29 federal agencies, the report said.
Every DOJ section OIG reviewed only supervised cases that were new and involved staff that seemed likely to come back to work.
“We believe that a review of older cases is important since medical conditions may improve over time and employees may reach a point where they could return to work in some fashion and contribute to the components’ missions,” the report said.
OIG also did not discover any evidence that DOJ sections looked over Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs chargeback reports that summarize FECA expenses by case number.
Here are excerpts from the OIG recommendations and the responses from Assistant Attorney General For Administration Lee Lofthus:
Recommendation: Develop a procedure to ensure each DOJ component establishes and maintains on site a readily available case file for the respective FECA cases listed on each component’s annual chargeback report.
Response: (Justice Management Division) concurs with the recommendation to develop procedures that will ensure that all DOJ components establish and maintain on site a readily available case file for FECA Ca5es listed on their respective chargeback report.
Recommendation: Establish minimum criteria in which each DOJ FECA Specialist should complete periodic case file reviews.
Repsonse: We concur with this recommendation and will set a high priority for the development of detailed, written procedures for periodic case file reviews.
Recommendation: Ensure that periodic medical updates are obtained and evaluated for reemployment opportunities for all DOJ employees on the chargeback report and second medical opinions are pursued when necessary.
Response: We concur with this recommendation to obtain periodic medical updates that will assist compensation specialists with return to work efforts.
Recommendation: Develop a process to routinely monitor and update FECA case files that will further DOJ’s efforts in returning employees back to work or to a light or modified duty assignment.
Response: JMD concurs with the recommendation to develop a process to routinely monitor and update cases files for the purpose of returning employees back t0 work.
Recommendation: Establish a procedure to ensure each DOJ component reviews the quarterly chargeback reports, identifies all possible errors, and reports errors to the OWCP for corrective action.
Response: JMD concurs that there are no written procedures to ensure that each DOJ component conducts routine reviews of their chargeback reports and report errors for corrective measure; however, DOJ components are tasked quarterly by JMD with reviewing their chargeback reports. There have been a number of credits and adjustments made to DOJ over past years due to proactive monitoring of quarterly chargeback reports.