Alleged Whistleblower Retaliation
House investigators are probing allegations that a Commerce Department agency has retaliated against numerous whistleblowers who spoke out against financial mismanagement by agency officials.
The allegations involve the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) program. In a September letter to Commerce’s inspector general, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said his committee is investigating allegations “that NIST MEP is targeting certain state centers by withholding matching federal funds to which they are entitled by statute.”
Issa was referring to state-based MEP Centers, which receive federal funds for consulting services provided to local manufacturing businesses. NIST provides one-third matching grants to 59 regional MEP Centers, meaning for every two allowable dollars an MEP Center spends, it receives one dollar in federal matching funds. The goal of the program is to spur American manufacturing by empowering smaller companies.
But whistleblowers claim that NIST MEP leadership, under director Roger Kilmer and deputy director Aimee Dobrzeniecki, has misspent agency money and denied MEP Centers matching funds to which they are entitled in order to boost or maintain NIST MEP’s “home office” budget. What’s more, they claim that NIST MEP retaliated against MEP Centers that spoke out against that financial mismanagement.
“[D]ocuments and information provided by whistleblowers show a range of misconduct by NIST program managers,” Issa wrote, “including: misuse of government credit cards; misuse of appropriated funds for lobbying; retaliation, and; preferential treatment for certain contracts.” Scribe has also obtained documentation supporting the allegations.
NIST MEP’s budget has increased dramatically over the past five years, but the amount of money going to the MEP Centers themselves has actually declined. In fiscal year 2006, NIST enjoyed $108 million in federal funding for MEP program, of which more than $90 million was disbursed to MEP Centers. By fiscal 2012, its budget was $128 million, with only $87 million marked for those centers.
Some MEP Centers allege that NIST has avoided sending more money to the centers in order to boost the share of its budget that remains in Washington. “Whatever federal monies these Centers are unable to draw down remains with the NIST home office,” one MEP Center director told Issa in a May letter. “This outcome appears to be intentional on the part of NIST.”
The tensions between NIST MEP leadership and the MEP Centers came to a head in 2010, when three centers -- in Maine, Massachusetts, and Florida -- filed a lawsuit attempting to force NIST MEP to implement sections of the 2007 America COMPETES Act designed to boost the share of NIST MEP’s budget going to regional centers.
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Editor's Note: Progressive bully politics (read: political correctness, et al.) leads to Progressive bully government. Both should be shunned, exorcized and left on the trash heap of history.
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