Friday, January 30, 2009

Some early thoughts on MMS's new code of conduct

This is the logical response to what Interior I.G. Earl Devaney and his investigators found when they began to look into allegations of outrageous conduct in the Minerals Management Service's Denver-based royalties management division. I wrote an extensive story about it last night after dinner, but it essentially comes down to this: MMS employees should not accept gifts from people or companies the agency regulates, even if no monetary compensation is involved. They should not even appear to accept gifts from what the bureaucrats call "prohibited sources." They also shouldn't hold outside positions where they work for people or companies MMS regulates. If they see one of their co-workers doing any of this, they should let their supervisors or other authority know. If they have any questions, they should not be afraid to ask someone.

Pretty basic, right? Anybody in Washington who has tried to take a federal employee to lunch will tell you so. (The government worker always picks up his or her check if he or she even agrees to join you, and lunch is always at someplace decidedly unglamorous.)

One aspect of what happened in Denver has been bothering me for months. In his reports, Devaney said that abuses occurred because a very few MMS employees decided the rules didn't apply to them. They decided to act more like marketers than government workers and happily went to social functions hosted by companies the agency regulates, ostensibly to "network."

So why were they even invited? Were the folks hosting the events so determined to get a competitive edge at the next royalty-in-kind sale that they didn't stop to ask if there would be a conflict of interests?

Clearly, those few MMS employees weren't thinking. Neither were the company officials who aided and abetted them, some of whom worked for firms which maintain offices here in Washington. The ones who don't may belong to trade associations with officials who should readily remind them of the rules and why they exist.

This particular ethics lapse gave MMS a black eye. But the oil and gas industry didn't escape without some bruises of its own.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Peru you have Zero Code And Unethical Conduct !!!
The past weeks one scandal involving Petroleum Companies after another has occured in Peru.
First corruption involving Discover Petroleum and Petrotech
bids for certain blocks has exposed scandal involving former and current Peruvian Navy Personel involved in wire taps and spying...
The Pervian News media has released several of the recordings over the past days and has mentioned at least one additional company, Petrobras Energia Peru, who may also be involved in the scandal.
Petrobras Energia Peru allready in volved in widespread corruption,Ethical and labor relation issues... actions by Petrobras Energia Peru management has left at least one American Company shut down for quite some time because Petrobras did not fullfill signed contract agreement.
Just yesterday armed gunmen attacked the Peruvian Government Lead Investigator in The Above Mentioned Case.
Monday Feb, 2. this lead investigator was to release additional finding to the recordings.

February 1, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Bob Rannals said...

While I agree, these employees appear to have been out of control, and immediate supervisor's and manager's failed to have control of their people, this is going to happen in any large organization. This is not an endoresment of their behavior and work ethics, just a fact. The correct way of dealing with it is identifying the indiviuals, and separating them from the "herd." Hopefully replacing them with individual's who will adhere to the "zero tolerance". But as human beings we have to expect it will happen again. Hopefully not within the Dept. of Interior. Which governmental department is immune? Defense? Yeah right. The American public deserves better, but is not so naive as to believe it doesn't happen. My main issue with Secretary Salazar's statements are his referral to "the anything goes attitude of the last 8 years". These things have been happening since Washington took the oath of office. Adress the issue, correct it, and move on. Hopefully in a better direction. I doubt the previous administration, President Bush included were aware of what was happening in the Denver MMS office's. Just as the previous Secretary of Interior during the Clinton years was unaware of the things taking place in President Clinton's office.

February 3, 2009 at 7:10 AM  

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