« PreviousContinue »
is, the office must be competent, it must be Independent, and it must have the highest integrity. An IG's reports must be respected as being thoughtful, thorough and complete. It is difficult to produce change in an organization based on an IG report that one can easily dismiss as inadequate. The IG office must also be above reproach. There must be no question about the office's integrity or its freedom to investigate and report factually about anyone or anything in the organization. There must not be even an appearance of a lack of integrity or independence or an IG's report loses moral force.
The NRC is in need of a credible inspector general office. For a variety of reasons, the office which now performs that function, the Office of Inspector and Auditor (OIA), lacks the necessary credibility. Just one example of this is a case in which I recently had great difficulty convincing an agency employee to report his concerns about agency managers to OIA. He and others who approached me with concerns about the performance of certain senior NRC staff managers said that they did not trust that office to do an adequate job. I should note that this lack of credibility is not simply a problem with OIA's current management; rather, OIA's lack of credibility goes back over several years. In my view, creating an independent, statutory inspector general could help to restore credibility to the agency's IG function. This will help the Commission to better manage the agency, and it will help to ensure public trust in the NRC. For these reasons, I support the creation of independent, statutory inspector general for the NRC.
H.R. 2126 amends the Energy Reorganization Act to create within the NRC an Office of Inspector General. The Inspector General is to be appointed by and removed by the President, but the Inspector General is to report to and be under the general supervision of the Commission. However, the Commission may not prevent or prohibit the Inspector General from "initiating, carrying out or completing any audit or investigation." It is not clear what "general supervision" is left to the Commission given this prohibition. Thus, H.R. 2126 creates an NRC office which is actually headed by a presidential appointee, but which nominally reports to the Commission. Such a situation may lead to confusion. A clearer approach would be to simply amend the Inspector General Act as S.908 does. H.R. 2126 also establishes several qualifications necessary for appointment as NRC's Inspector General. One is "knowledge of nuclear power technology." In my opinion, such a requirement is not necessary and may significantly limit the available candidates for Inspector General.
Office of Investigations
H.R. 2126 also contains provisions pertaining to the NRC's Office of Investigations (01). In general, I support efforts to protect the independence of 01. The credibility of the NRC's Office of Investigations is just as important as the credibility of its IG. The NRC does not have the resources to do more than audit licensees' programs. We must be sure, therefore, that licensees are not purposely circumventing our regulations or failing to report significant information necessary for the NRC to make informed decisions. By investigating and providing the information
necessary to support enforcement action when a licensee willfully violates NRC regulations, OI's efforts help to ensure the integrity of licensees' programs so that the agency can rely on the licensees to carry out their responsibilities. Further, there is a direct connection between the respect of the public for the NRC's investigatory efforts and their belief in the integrity of the agency's regulatory process. A strong, competent and Independent 01 helps to ensure that people believe the agency is truly interested in uncovering wrongdoing and in enforcing its regulations. This in turn leads to enhanced trust 1n the NRC to protect the public health and safety. Efforts to make the office more independent and to protect the integrity of OI's investigations can only help to ensure that 01 can continue to perform this vital function.
Before the Office of Investigations was created, the NRC's investigations of wrongdoing issues did not have much credibility, either with the public or with the Department of Justice. Investigations often were performed by inspectors who were not trained investigators, who did not know what questions to ask, and who did not know about techniques for gathering and protecting documents. As a result, reports were not competent or complete. There was at least one case in which a draft of an investigation report was shown to the attorney for the entity being Investigated. In addition, there was a perception on the part of some that the staff was not objective about wrongdoing issues because investigations got in the way of licensing plants. The NRC staff is required in our licensing process to take a position on whether a particular license should issue. By the hearing stage in the process, the staff usually has worked out its problems with
the applicant and in the hearing advocates Issuance of the license. This creates the appearance that the staff is on the "side" of the license applicant. Often those on the other side of the issue are skeptical that the staff can objectively resolve allegations, especially those involving wrongdoing rather than some specific hardware problem. Given this less than competent performance and a perception of sponsorship by the staff, both the Department of Justice and the public concluded that the NRC was not serious about uncovering wrongdoing.
In order to obtain credibility, the Commission decided to establish an Office of Investigations which would be independent of the NRC staff, which would report to the Commission directly, and which would be composed of trained, professional investigators. Because of the staff's poor past performance, the Commmission felt that a Commission level office was essential to establishing trust In the Investigative function. 01 has been effective in doing just that. Our relations with the Department of Justice have improved immensely largely because 01 investigations are performed in a competent and professional manner. In fact, we have had several letters from the U.S. Attorney General commenting on the high quality of 01's work and thanking us for their assistance. And, public trust in the investigative function has been enhanced by 01's performance, and by the perception that 01 is independent of the NRC's staff.
There are some within the NRC, however, who are not sympathetic to arguments that OI's function and independence are important to the NRC's regulatory process. As a result, there have been efforts to "rein in" 01. - 6
There have been efforts, so far rejected by the Commission, to have 01 report to the Executive Director for Operations (EDO) rather than to the Commission. 01's authority to investigate has been circumscribed by the establishment of thresholds for investigation and by the establishment of an Investigations Referral Board which screens cases before they are referred to 01. Also, 01 has not been provided with the resources necessary to effectively carry out Its responsibilities. Many allegations go uninvestigated simply for lack of manpower.
Therefore, I support efforts to protect the independence of 01. H.R. 2126 goes a long way toward ensuring OI's independence and authority. However, I have several comments you may want to consider. First, the duties of 01 are defined in part as:
... to investigate allegations that licensees, permittees, applicants, contractors and vendors of the Commission have failed to comply with laws, regulations, guidelines or procedures related to protecting the health and safety of the public from radiological hazards, ...
This description is broad enough to include purely negligent failures to comply with requirements. OI's function has in the past been to investigate those cases where there is a reasonable basis for believing that there has been wrongdoing - ie., 01 investigates cases where violations are knowing or are done with careless disregard of the