U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) responded today to a Department of Labor Office of Inspector General report on the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) internal accountability program. Chairman Kline requested the review last year to determine the agency's progress in implementing the recommendations of a 2007 Inspector General report, as well as recommendations proposed by MSHA's accountability office.
"In 2007, the Inspector General offered some tough criticism and important advice about how to strengthen MSHA's accountability program," said Chairman Kline. "The agency should be commended for addressing many of the concerns raised in the Inspector General's earlier audit, but today's report reveals problems continue to plague oversight of the agency's enforcement activities. MSHA must establish a process that identifies enforcement weaknesses and ensures they are effectively addressed.
"Without a strong accountability program, MSHA cannot provide miners the level of safety enforcement they deserve. While mine operators maintain primary responsibility for ensuring a safe workplace, MSHA has an obligation to enforce the law. Any attempt to downplay the critical role of effective enforcement policies in mine safety is a disservice to miners and their families. As the committee continues to conduct oversight of this important agency, I urge Assistant Secretary Main to adopt the Inspector General's recommendations."
MSHA created the Office of Accountability Audits to enhance oversight of its enforcement activities. A March 25, 2010 report by the accountability office revealed serious deficiencies in the agency's enforcement of health and safety standards. The committee learned the report was one of many conducted by the accountability office that had never been disclosed to the public.
In response to a committee oversight request, MSHA produced 60 audit documents with significant redactions. Chairman Kline then requested that the Inspector General undertake a comprehensive review of all audits dating back to 2007 to determine whether MSHA adopted the recommendations made by its accountability office. The key findings in today's report include:
While MSHA took action to address the 14 recommendations in the Inspector General's 2007 audit report, one district office did not fully utilize a system intended to track agency progress implementing corrective actions. Additionally, MSHA headquarters was not aware that a district office failed to utilize the required tracking system.
MSHA did not implement or could not demonstrate it implemented 10 percent of the corrective actions proposed by the accountability office. Furthermore, MSHA headquarters was not aware of multiple failures to follow corrective actions by one district office until informed by the Office of Inspector General.
Corrective actions that were taken did not always resolve or prevent the recurrence of enforcement errors identified during accountability reviews. These deficiencies relate to supervisory reviews, inspections, and citations -- many of the same problems raised in the March 2010 accountability audit.