U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
New Orleans Flood Protection to Get New Investigation
OSC Report Prompts New Effort by DoD Inspector General
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 21, 2008****
CONTACT: James Mitchell, 202-254-3607,
WASHINGTON, DC – A report to the President by the U.S. Special Counsel (OSC) on a whistleblower’s disclosures about flaws in the New Orleans Flood Protection System is leading to a more comprehensive investigation.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil engineer, Maria E. Garzino, disclosed serious allegations to OSC in 2007 concerning pumping equipment manufactured and installed by a contractor. She alleged that it was defective and largely untested.
Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch referred Ms. Garzino’s disclosures to the Secretary of Defense on September 21, 2007, directing a formal investigation, which was conducted by the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG). Inspector General Claude M. Kicklighter’s report to OSC on May 14, 2008 substantiated several of Ms. Garzino’s allegations. However, it concluded that, “... these deficiencies were performance-related shortcomings that did not rise to the level of a serious violation of law or regulation, abuse of authority of gross mismanagement. Nor did they result in a gross waste of funds or a danger to public health or safety.”
Special Counsel Bloch reported to the President on August 4, 2008 that the DOD IG’s findings were, “superficial and dismissive,”citing extensive comments on the DOD IG report and documentary evidence provided by Ms. Garzino. She saw the report as devoid of engineering and mathematical interpretation with, “severely flawed and erroneous” conclusions, representing a “whitewash.”
Within a few days, Acting DOD Inspector Gordon S. Heddell notified OSC that he strongly agreed, “... that every effort must be made to assure the citizens of New Orleans that pumps designed for flood protection will perform as specified during hurricanes.” He has directed his office to determine whether the pumps were, in fact, adequately tested and to evaluate the likelihood that the pumps could be vulnerable to failure in the event of a hurricane.
“We are encouraged by the prompt response of the DoD Inspector General to engage his organization to ensure that the pumps will perform when needed to provide protection for the people of New Orleans,” said Special Counsel Bloch.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an
independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure
channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is
to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal
employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially
retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch
Act. For more information please visit our web site at
www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.
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