Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Inspector General: Misuse, Sloth at Key EPA Facility

by June 14th, 2013

In an “Early Warning Report” the Office of the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency recommended to the agency it take immediate action on its largest warehouse. Parts of the EPA headquarters storage site had been converted into a workers’ playtime complex for contractor employees while other sections were markedly unsanitary and unsafe. The contractor, Apex Logistics, LLC, had been previously described by EPA as “uniquely qualified” to do warehouse management work though there’d been no on-site reviews at the 77,000 square foot HQ warehouse in Landover, Maryland since it was leased by the agency in 2007. Following a briefing last month from the OIG about conditions there, EPA moved quickly to take corrective steps.

According to the OIG report, parts of the warehouse more resembled a private club than a government facility. The contractor’s employees had set up personal spaces that contained “televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches.” There was also a space of 30 by 45 feet set aside for a well-equipped and well-maintained gym, using EPA surplus equipment, created and used by the contractor’s employees – all of which were outside the view of security cameras.

In contrast, property such as computers and other refrigerators were unaccounted for and outside the proper security cage. Records dating back to 1992 were stored willy-nilly. There were safety and health hazards. The report stated, “Door jambs were corroded; dirt, dust and vermin feces were pervasive; and several items were rotting and potentially hazardous. We observed refrigerators with mold, and old computer bags molding and rotting.” The record-keeping system was not accurate. In a test of 11 items within the secured cage area, six were found to have errors in their corresponding records. Propane tanks and vehicles were stored in the warehouse as well.

On May 15 and 16, 2013, the EPA Office of the Inspector General briefed the EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, and Nanci Gelb, principal deputy assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Administration and Resource Management (OARM), on its findings and its recommendations that the EPA immediately inspect and fix the problems at its largest warehouse. The EPA has 60 days to report back to the OIG on what it has done to remedy the problems, but acted immediately to rectify the violations.

Fast response by EPA to OIG’s findings
In a memo to the Inspector General, stamped May 23, 2013, contained in the same report, Perciasepe reported that the EPA had taken a number of actions in response. Among these: It took necessary steps to terminate Apex Logistics, LLC and its personnel; secured both the facility and personal documents; completed an accurate inventory; and “ordered an agency-wide review of warehouse and storage facilities” and began inquiries into potential improper actions by agency personnel connected with the warehouse, and into agency records storage policies. EPA reported it also corrected safety problems at the facility, identified and separated out for re-use elsewhere all surplus furniture, and drafted and implemented new guidelines on proper use and maintenance of the facility.

EPA was also warned of wasted space costing up to $21.6M per year
The EPA was previously cited by the Office of the Inspector General in its May 2013 Semiannual Report to Congress for wasting up to $21.6 million annually via 433,336 square feet of under-utilized space at 13 facilities.

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EPA had found warehouse contractor to be “uniquely qualified”
The contractor had an established history with the EPA and enjoyed favored status. On August 2, 2011 in a notice of intent to award a no-bid contract to Apex for a transition-period warehouse management services, the EPA explained the company “is…uniquely qualified to satisfy the Government’s requirement. As previous contract holder for four years, Apex has intrinsic knowledge that allows them to respond to the EPA faster than another vendor. They currently provide several mission critical services to the Government that cannot be interrupted while the new contract is re-competed. The vendor provides emergency clean up services, storage of sensitive items, property accountability services, space reconfiguration, shipment and receiving of Government property and collection of recyclable materials.

“For example, Apex already has a current list of sensitive supplies and a current list of Government property that needs to be disposed of. It would take another vendor additional time to go through the warehouse and physically inventory all of the items in the warehouse. Additionally, Apex currently uses Integrated Financial Management System which allows them to quickly access current lists of items in the warehouse. A new vendor would have to take time to learn this new system.”

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