NRC rapped over gun accounting

17 July 2007

An unannounced audit of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's property has found widespread inaccuracy in accounting databases. Of particular concern to investigators were errors concerning the commission's firearms.

A random audit of NRC property was carried out by the NRC branch of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), an bureau meant to ensure integrity and efficiency in federal government programs. The audit focused on the NRC's 'non-capitalized' property - items purchased for up to $50,000 - and the efficacy of the Space Planning and Property Management System (SPMS) meant to control it.

The investigation found there were errors in 38-44% of SPMS records relating to items held at the NRC's Washington headquarters. The value of poorly accounted-for equipment at the headquarters reached a maximum projected value of $7.4 million, increasing to over $8 million including regional offices, which fared better in the audit.

However, the most concerning findings of the audit were those related to 48 of the guns belonging to the NRC's Office of Investigations.

SPMS records indicated that 17 of the 48 audited guns were at headquarters, although only two actually were. Another gun at headquarters was recorded as being in another region. In addition, it was found that 13 of the guns' serial numbers had been incorrectly recorded.

"Because of the highly sensitive nature of this property, the recording of accurate serial numbers for firearms is particularly important," noted the audit report.

OIG officials were eventually able to account for all 48 guns in their sample.

The audit also found that 366 employees that had left the NRC between January 2005 and June 2006 were still apparently in possession of some $110,000 in equipment, according to SPMS records. One staffer who left the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response was listed as holding over $34,000 in items.

The OIG partly put the accounting failures down to inadequate accountability due to a number of factors, including that senior executives' rewards did not reflect accountability for property management. Another factor was inadequate training for property custodians.

The OIG also said that changing the value threshold for an item to be included on SPMS from $500 to $1000 would reduce the number of items in the system by 37% while still accounting for 84% of the dollar value of its target property.

Further information

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Inspector General Reports: Audit of NRC's Non-Capitalized Property