While President Obama is expected to tout his progress on environmental issues in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, a recent government audit exposed serious organizational problems that continue to lurk beneath the surface of the administration’s effort to confront climate change.
An audit by the State Department’s Inspector General last month showed that the agency still hasn’t fixed problems — originally spotlighted more than a year ago — in the way it funds climate change studies, and specifically how it uses resources from other government agencies.
According to the audit, the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Administration (OES), is in charge of the majority of the $120.5 million the State Department handed out last year for foreign assistance on climate change issues.
Most notable among ongoing problems that investigators cited at OES was that the office still had not taken steps to ensure all of its information was completely accurate.
Without proper verification, “the data used by OES to report programmatic results for climate change programs cannot be consistently relied upon by decision-makers,” the State Department audit found.
The examination was conducted as a follow-up to a July 2012 audit which had found, among other problems, that the OES had occasionally ignored protocol designed to “ensure that data used to report and support programmatic results were accurate.”
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Investigators did, however, conclude that the office is progressing toward fixing a host of other management issues that had been highlighted in a July 2012 audit.
“Overall, OIG found that the Department was making progress in addressing the deficiencies identified and in implementing the corrective actions recommended,” the watchdog said in its audit last month.
But it did point to several areas where the OES was still having oversight problems, specifically with ensuring that the funding it provides to various organizations for environmental projects is actually used for its intended purpose.
During the July 2012 audit, investigators had found instances in which the OES had failed to obtain “final reports” from grant recipients.
Last month’s audit said the problem still has not been sufficiently addressed and that without obtaining such “final performance and financial reports for review and submission to the [Grants Officer] for proper closeout, the question of whether the program was conducted and completed in accordance with the objectives and goals of the award may be difficult to answer.”