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INSPECTOR GENERAL INVESTIGATIONS

DAO 207-10: INSPECTOR GENERAL INVESTIGATIONS
Number: DAO 207-10
Effective Date: 2013-12-12

SECTION 1. PURPOSE.

.01 This Order prescribes the policies and procedures for the initiation and conduct of investigations by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), for the action to be taken on investigative reports, and for other matters relating to investigations and investigative activities conducted by the OIG Office of Investigations (OI).

.02 This revision generally updates the OIG investigative policies and procedures not previously contained in the Order.  This revision also reflects the current organizational structure of the OIG OI.

SECTION 2. AUTHORITY.

.01 The Inspector General has the authority to conduct and supervise investigations relating to the activities, programs, and operations of the Department of Commerce (the Department) as provided in the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, 5 U.S.C.A. Appendix 3 (the Act).  All investigative activities not otherwise authorized to the Department or its operating units are the responsibility of the OIG and shall be carried out by or under the direction of the OIG's OI headed by the Principal Assistant Inspector General for Investigations (PAIGI).

.02 In conducting its investigative function for the Department, the Inspector General is authorized, under the Act, to have access to all records, communications (e.g., email, voice mail, instant messaging), reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations and other material available to the Department that relate to Department programs and operations.

SECTION 3. MATTERS TO BE REPORTED TO THE OIG.

.01 Scope.  The Act requires the OIG to conduct and supervise investigations and other activities designed to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse related to Department programs and operations, and, to that end, authorizes the Inspector General, through the PAIGI, to investigate activity which may constitute mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a violation of law or regulation.  Accordingly, information indicating the possible existence of any of these activities is to be reported to the OIG in accordance with Section 4 of this Order.  If a Department official or employee has any question about whether a particular matter should be reported to the OIG, the official or employee should contact the PAIGI or the OIG Hotline (see paragraph 4.01 of this Order).

.02 Matters to be reported to the OIG include, but are not limited to, the following:

a. Theft, conversion, misappropriation, embezzlement or misuse of government funds or property by any person, including a Department official, employee, grantee, contractor, or recipient of financial assistance;

b. Submission of a false claim or a false statement to the Department by any person, including a Department official, employee, grantee, contractor, or recipient of financial assistance;

c. Concealment, removal, obliteration, falsification, forgery, alteration, or unauthorized destruction of government records;

d. Fraud or conspiracy to defraud the government or a government official in connection with any matter relating to the programs and operations of the Department;

e. Bribery, extortion, blackmail, or any attempt to bribe, extort or blackmail a Department official or employee;

f. Conflicts of interest involving a Department official or employee, or other violations of the standards of ethical conduct by a Department official or employee;

g. Reprisal against a Department employee for making a protected disclosure to authorized recipients (see Section 4.04 of this Order), to include reporting information to or otherwise assisting or cooperating with the OIG;

h. Serious mismanagement or abuse of authority by a Department official or employee.

i.  Department official or employee indicted or otherwise formally charged with criminal conduct in any federal, state or local court; and

j.  Misconduct or material misrepresentations made by a Senior Department official—who shall be defined as an official who is employed at a rate of pay specified in accordance with subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 5—in the course of his or her duties.

.03 Matters disclosed by outside law enforcement authorities.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other investigative agencies may be involved in cases relating to programs and operations of the Department.  Matters brought to the attention of a Department officer or employee by an outside investigatory or law enforcement agency must be reported to the OIG under this Section.

.04 Sanctions for failing to report.  Knowing failure of a Department officer or employee to comply with the reporting requirements prescribed by this Order may result in disciplinary action in accordance with DAO 202-751, “Discipline.” 

.05 Matters generally not investigated by the OIG include:

a. Thefts of personal or non-Commerce property should be reported to local law enforcement officers or the Office of Security, as appropriate. Assistance of these authorities should be sought where there is an imminent threat of harm to the safety or security of persons or property on Department premises, e.g., robberies, assaults, disorderly conduct, or vandalism.

b. Violations of statutes or regulations governing the classification and handling of national security or intelligence information, administratively controlled information, and physical security shall be reported to the Office of Security or other appropriate officials in accordance with DAO 207-1, “Security Programs.”

c. Violations of statutes or implementing regulations administered by a Department organizational unit charged with enforcing a regulatory scheme through a compliance program (e.g., the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Protected Resources, the Bureau of Industry and Security's Office of Export Enforcement) shall be reported to the appropriate unit.

d. In view of other available avenues of redress, the OIG does not normally investigate (1) individual complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual preference, or disability, or (2) other personnel matters (except reprisals for contacts with the OIG or other authorized recipients of protected disclosures) where personal relief is sought, such as employee grievances and complaints of prohibited personnel practices.  These matters should be referred to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, the Merit Systems Protection Board or the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, as appropriate.

SECTION 4. PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING TO THE OIG; REQUESTS FOR INVESTIGATIONS.

.01 Hotline.  The OIG maintains a dedicated telephone line, post office box, and e-mail address for reporting allegations.  Information on how to contact the OIG Hotline is available on the OIG website:  www.oig.doc.gov.

.02 OIG Offices of Investigations.  Investigators are available to receive information and complaints in OIG headquarters and in OI field offices.  Contact information is available on the OIG web site at: www.oig.doc.gov.

.03 Confidentiality.   The OIG shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from a Department officer or employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless disclosure is required by law or the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation.

.04 No Reprisal.  No employee or official who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall direct any employee to refrain from making a complaint, reporting information or cooperating with the OIG or any other authorized recipient of protected disclosures.  Further, no employee or official shall take or threaten to take any action against any employee as a reprisal for making a protected disclosure, disclosing information to or cooperating with the OIG, or any other authorized recipient of protected disclosures, or for evidencing an intention to do so, unless the disclosure was made or the information disclosed with the knowledge that it was false or with willful disregard for its truth or falsity.

SECTION 5. INVESTIGATIONS; ACTION ON INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS.

.01 Action on complaints.  Upon receipt of a complaint, OI will create and maintain a record of the complaint, and may:

a. Open and undertake an inquiry or investigation;

b. Refer the information to another OIG office (i.e., Office of Audit and Evaluation);

c. Refer the matter to or coordinate OIG investigative activities with another Federal, State or local law enforcement authority; or

d. In appropriate cases, where the information received concerns administrative, programmatic, managerial or personnel issues that do not require the specialized skills of the OIG for determination of the facts, OI may refer the matter to an appropriate Department operating unit or agency for its information or may request the operating unit or agency to conduct an independent inquiry and report its results to the PAIGI.  In such cases, the operating unit or agency shall report its findings, or if the inquiry is not concluded, shall report its progress, within 60 days of the referral and every 60 days thereafter until the inquiry is completed.  In its final report to the OIG, the operating unit or agency will include a statement describing the results of its inquiry and any administrative or disciplinary action taken as a result of the inquiry.  After reviewing the final report, OIG may take additional actions if deemed necessary.

.02 Referrals to the Attorney General.  The OIG shall report expeditiously to the Department of Justice whenever the OIG has reasonable grounds to believe there has been a violation of federal criminal law.

.03 Reports of Inquiry/Investigation.  Upon completion of an OIG investigation, the PAIGI may transmit a written Report of Investigation (ROI), including investigative findings, or other information as the PAIGI deems appropriate, to the head of the appropriate operating unit or agency. Administrative control of ROIs and related materials transmitted by the OIG shall be subject to Section 7 of this Order.

.04 Action on Reports of Inquiry/Investigation.  Within 60 days of the issuance of an ROI, the head of the operating unit or agency shall advise the OIG of any administrative action that they have deemed necessary or appropriate to take in response to the findings in the ROI.  To the extent that the action has not been completed within the 60-day period, the operating unit or agency shall submit progress reports to the OIG every 60 days thereafter until all action has been concluded.

SECTION 6. COOPERATION WITH OIG INVESTIGATIONS.

.01 Access by the OIG to agency records.  Each Department organizational unit, officer, and employee, shall without delay furnish the OIG upon request access to and copies of all records, communications (e.g., emails, voice mails, instant messages), documents, papers, data or other information requested.  Each organizational unit shall also provide the necessary authorizations for OIG access to computer and other data when such are maintained by another government agency or by any outside contractor, grantee, or other recipient of Department financial assistance.

.02 Department Officers and Employees.

a. Department officers and employees shall cooperate fully with any OIG investigation; shall not encumber or delay direct communication between the OIG and any party; shall not withhold information or documentary materials from the OIG; shall furnish sworn oral or subscribed statements upon request (including audio/video-recorded statements), subject to subparagraph .02b of this Section; and shall answer questions relating to their employment and to matters coming to their attention in their official capacity or by reason of their employment.

b. Department officers and employees may assert their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions on the grounds that the answers might be used against them in a criminal proceeding.  An employee who asserts his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination may not be disciplined solely for remaining silent.  However, an employee’s silence may be considered by Department management, in taking disciplinary action, for its evidentiary value as warranted by the facts surrounding the case and, if appropriate, may be reported to other authorities in accordance with the law.

.03 Failure to cooperate with OIG investigation.  Department officers and employees who refuse to answer questions or otherwise fully and without delay cooperate with an OIG investigation may be disciplined.  In the case of a criminal investigation, an employee may be disciplined for refusing to cooperate with the OIG if, after receiving either a grant of immunity from criminal prosecution or being advised of a declination of prosecution by the Department of Justice or other prosecuting authority, the employee continues to refuse to fully cooperate with the investigation.

SECTION 7.  CONTROL OF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS AND RELATED MATERIALS; DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION.

.01 Dissemination of Reports of Investigation and Related Materials.

a. The ROI, including all exhibits thereto, interim investigative reports, memoranda transmitting such reports, notifications of referral to the Department of Justice, OIG summaries, reports of disposition by the Department of Justice, referrals to other entities and related materials shall be considered to be marked "For Official Use Only" even if they are not so marked, and are subject to applicable Department regulations concerning administratively controlled material. Such materials may be shared only with those agency officials who have a need for the information in the exercise of their official duties.  No other dissemination or release of these documents may be made without the prior express written approval of the OIG.

b. The materials noted in subparagraph .01a of this Section shall not be discussed with or provided to the subject of an investigation or to the subject's representative(s) without the prior express approval of the OIG.

c. All Department operating units, officials, and employees receiving OIG ROIs and/or related documents must safeguard them from inappropriate release or disclosure. None of the information contained in these documents may be disseminated to any third parties except as required by law, or as necessary to implement disciplinary or administrative action on the findings and recommendations in the report.

d. Operating units and officials receiving requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act for any of the materials noted in subparagraph .01a of this Section shall refer all such requests, promptly upon receipt, to the OIG FOIA Officer. Nothing herein is intended to derogate from the authority of program officials to process and respond to Privacy Act or FOIA requests for the operating unit's records.

e. When all administrative actions relating to the materials noted in subparagraph .01a of this Section are completed, the Department operating unit shall return all the materials to the OIG without retaining copies, except when express written OIG approval has been given or where such materials have become part of a record in an administrative or other proceeding.

.02 Disclosure of information in response to inquiries from third parties.  Inquiries from the media or other third-party entities for information or comment relating to an OIG investigation, including matters under investigation or prosecution by Federal, State or local authorities, shall be referred to the PAIGI for handling in consultation with the OIG Office of Counsel.

SECTION 8. LIAISON WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ON INVESTIGATIVE MATTERS.

The OIG shall be the Department liaison with Federal, State, and local law enforcement and investigative agencies, with respect to information reported under paragraph 3.02 of this Order and all matters, policies, and activities relating to the prevention, detection, and redress of fraud, waste, mismanagement, serious abuses of authority, and violations of law, regulation or ethical standards in the programs and operations of the Department.

SECTION 9.  VETTING CHECKS.

.01 Vetting Checks.

a. It is the Department's policy to request the OIG to perform vetting checks in aid of the nomination processes for the appointment and promotion of officers in the NOAA Corps and the Foreign Service; the appointment of private individuals to Department boards, commissions, and
advisory committees; selections for Gold and Silver Medals, Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Awards, and Presidential Rank Awards; and the selection process for participants in trade missions and similar activities sponsored by the Department.

b. A "vetting check" is a limited-scope inquiry performed by OI to obtain information from the OIG investigative case data system which may be relevant to the Department's decisions with respect to the appointment or promotion of certain employees; appointments to Department boards, commissions, or advisory committees; selection of DOC employees or private individuals or organizations for particular honors or awards; or the selection of private individuals or organizations to participate in certain activities sponsored by the Department or in particular meetings or other official interactions with Department officers or employees.  A vetting check shall be limited to a search of the OIG investigative case data system for the existence of the name of the individual being vetted.  The OI shall only provide the Department with notice as to whether this individual is in the investigative case data system and, if in the system, relevant information in the system regarding the individual.  The OIG will not recommend or withhold a recommendation with respect to any individual it is asked to vet.

SECTION 10. EFFECT ON OTHER ORDERS.

a. This order supersedes DAO 207-10, dated October 19, 2006; and

b. All Department Administrative Orders, to the extent that they contain inconsistent provisions, are hereby constructively amended to conform to the provisions of this Order.

Signed by: Inspector General
Approved by: Secretary of Commerce

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Page last updated:December 13, 2013