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Summaries of Investigation & Inquiry Cases - 2018

Investigations are used to determine whether allegations are substantiated or not, identify systemic weaknesses related to the allegations, and enable responsible authorities to take appropriate action if needed.  Investigations and inquiries review matters such as abuse of position or authority, conflicts of interest, fraud, mismanagement, and waste.

Analysis: A PI improperly used their position to induce a research university to hire personnel.  The PI provided funding to the university to support sponsored research, and then provided the names of personnel they wanted to perform the research.  The university hired these personnel to work for the PI.  The PI had the university personnel perform research for the funding provided, as well as perform other research not related to funding provided to the university.  In one case, the PI had the university hire a person to teach a class in another country.  The class was unrelated to the purpose of the funding provided to the university.  

Conclusion: Government personnel have an ethical responsibility not to misuse their positions or misuse funding under their control.  Interfering with an outside agencies hiring process by simply suggesting who to hire when you control the funding can be an ethical violation.

Analysis: A PI improperly authorized the expenditure of reimbursable sponsor funding not directly related to the activity for those funds.  The PI used sponsor funding for a particular research proposal and supported other research proposals with those funds.   

Conclusion: A PI has the responsibility to ensure the expenditure of sponsored funds they control are related to the activity proposed for those funds.  It is improper to use sponsor funds for activities not related to the purpose of the sponsor funds.

Analysis: A PI improperly managed sponsored education funding and redirected the funds for another purpose. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) appropriated funding was provided to the PI to teach a short course.  The PI directed a portion of the funds to an outside agency to support the course.  The outside agency had significant excess funds left over after supporting the course.  Instead of having the funds returned, the PI directed the outside agency to use the funds to support Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDTE) sponsored research not related to the short course.  The use of the excess funds resulted in a fiscal law violation (purpose violation) and NPS reporting a potential ADA violation.

Conclusion:  PIs have the responsibility to spend funds they control according to appropriations law and applicable policies, and charges to a sponsored account are in direct support of the work proposed. Funding provided for the short course was from a non-RDTE appropriation and excess funding was used to support RDTE appropriated funding research for the PI.

Conclusion: A PI has the responsibility to ensure the expenditure of sponsored funds they control are related to the activity proposed for those funds.  It is improper to use sponsor funds for activities not related to the purpose of the sponsor funds.

Analysis: Government employees were using their official NPS email and title to support and endorse non-federal entities (NFEs).  This included encouragement to join the organizations and solicitation of funds.  Also, events supporting these NFEs were listed in official news on the NPS intranet.  Government employees were serving as board and committee members of NFEs, and sending out information about the NFEs using their NPS email and official duty titles.  

Conclusion: It depends.

Some non-federal entities have special relationships with DoD by law or other directives such as the NPS local 1690, Federal Managers Association and Federally Employed Women.  These groups can provide information on the NPS intranet about their organization events and activities on the community resource page of the NPS Internet.  

NFEs not recognized to receive support can be listed in unofficial news on the NPS intranet.   

Government employees should avoid using official titles and resources to endorse NFEs.  Additional rules apply to political groups and partisan political activities under the Hatch Act.  Employees can participate in NFEs in their personal capacity, but should refrain from using their NPS email or official title when associating or communicating with the NFE or information about the NFE (except NFEs with special relationships).  Employees should be aware of endorsing NFEs that are political groups or soliciting funds for partisan political groups in their official capacity, which could be a Hatch Act violation.

Ethics counselors are available to provide guidance. 

Analysis:  A Naval Officer was using his rank on his personal business website and used his rank and official Navy photo on his Linked-In webpage mentioning his business.  The officer did not have approval for outside activity as required by NPS instruction 5370.3E.

Conclusion:  The NPS Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) and Office of Counsel are Designated Agency Ethics Officials (DAEO).  They make ethics determinations and provide guidance on ethical matters including the appropriate use of rank and official Navy photo related to a business.  They also review outside activity requests for conflicts of interest.

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Investigation FAQs

Important items for consideration before contacting our office.

The IG conducts investigations and inquiries into allegations of wrongdoing by military or civilian members of NPS.

Ethics rules require all personnel to be vigilant against the possibility of illegal or improper acts and report them to their chain of command or an IG.

Anyone can file a hotline complaint.

The IG investigates matters involving:   
• Abuse of authority, position, or title
• Bribes, kickbacks, and acceptance of gratuities
• Conflicts of interest
• Ethics violations
• Fraud, including travel fraud
• Improper gifts
• Improper referral for mental health evaluations
• Mismanagement
• Misuse of government resources, including official time, property, position and public office
• Political activities
• Procurement or contract Issues
• Purchase card and travel card abuse
• Reprisal
• Safety and public health
• Systemic problems
• Time and attendance
• Waste
It depends. The IG may decline to investigate, especially if other channels exist for handling the matter.  You should first attempt to resolve problems using the chain of command and available avenues of redress.  If you’ve attempted this and can show that the process was flawed or lacked independence, we will review the process to see whether proper procedures were followed.
In person, by phone, email, fax, letter, or by use of the online hotline form.  Our experience has shown that written complaints are more organized, provide more details, and are less emotional.

No. You may request confidentiality or anonymity.

If you request confidentiality, we will make every effort to protect your identity from disclosure; however, we cannot guarantee confidentiality since disclosure may be required during the investigation or in the course of corrective action.

If you file your complaint anonymously, we won’t know who you are, and won’t be able to contact you to request additional information or to give you the results of the investigation.

An investigator will evaluate your complaint and determine if it warrants investigation or if it should be referred to other authorities or to the command for a response.
We will contact you to let you know what action was taken on your complaint (if you provide your name and contact information).
Most investigations are completed within 90 days, but can take longer depending on the complexity of the case.
Once the investigation is closed, you may submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the report.