EHS Administration, Regulatory Developments

OIG Oversight Plan for Top Management Challenges

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued its Fiscal Year 2023 Oversight Plan, which details the projects the OIG intends to conduct through September 2023 and identifies top management challenges faced by both the EPA and the OIG.

“Oversight is at the core of the EPA OIG’s mission,” said Inspector General Sean O’Donnell in an OIG news release. “This plan provides transparency of our planned work for this year as well as context for how audits and evaluations will directly address top management challenges for the EPA and the CSB.”

Among the top issues the EPA faces is the ability to manage the more than $100 billion appropriated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). For fiscal year (FY) 2023, the OIG published a new top management challenge focusing on oversight related to this unprecedented funding. Three of the OIG’s oversight plan projects are specifically dedicated to IIJA oversight, with an additional six projects currently under development.

Top management challenges

For FY 2023, 8 top management challenges were identified. The OIG’s Oversight Plan includes 72 planned and ongoing projects related to the EPA and 6 planned specifically for U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) programs and operations. The projects are designed to detect fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct within the two organizations and specifically within the top management challenges identified.

1. Mitigating the Causes and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change. The EPA must take a leadership role in addressing climate change and mitigating its effect on human health and the environment.

The EPA is working to drive greenhouse gas emissions reductions through an integrated approach of regulations, partnerships, and technical assistance. The EPA is also working to strengthen the nation’s adaptive capacity and resilience, with a particular focus on advancing environmental justice (EJ). 

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Evaluating state inspection of diesel-fueled vehicles;
  • Auditing the effectiveness of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Program in preventing releases of hazardous substances during natural disasters;
  • Auditing water infrastructure resilience against climate change;
  • Auditing the EPA’s oversight of the renewable fuel standards’ renewable identification number market; and
  • Evaluating the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance’s National Compliance Initiative for Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines.

2. Integrating and Leading EJ Across the Agency and Government. The EPA must identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on EJ communities.

In FY 2022, the EPA took the historic step of creating a new national program Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR).  In the past year, the EPA also finalized its FY 2022–2026 Strategic Plan, which contains a dedicated goal specifically focused on advancing EJ and external civil rights compliance throughout the Agency. This goal also enabled the new OEJECR to craft and publish an accompanying National Program Guidance to help guide implementation of the strategic plan commitments.

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Auditing State Revolving Fund Programs’ progress to increase investment in disadvantaged communities; 
  • Auditing the EPA’s Adherence to American Rescue Plan Act requirements to improve human health and environmental protections for EJ communities;
  • Evaluating air quality at U.S. maritime ports;
  • Auditing benzene fenceline monitoring at refineries;
  • Auditing cumulative impacts on communities with EJ concerns;
    • Auditing Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan subsidies to disadvantaged communities; and
    • Auditing the use of the EPA’s Elevation Policy to address lead in the Benton Harbor, Michigan, community water system.

3. Providing for the Safe Use of Chemicals. The public must be able to depend on the EPA’s ability to conduct credible and timely assessments of the risks posed by pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other environmental chemicals.

The EPA recognizes that greater market predictability around EPA decision review time frames is one of the main objectives of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) and its reauthorizations. The Agency is actively working with its stakeholders to identify process improvements and resource needs in the future to bring the EPA’s decision review time frames back in alignment with statutory time frames in the PRIA, to eliminate the existing backlog of non-PRIA actions, and to improve review time frames for non-PRIA applications going forward so that a backlog does not happen again.

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Evaluating the EPA’s response to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination from plastic containers used to store pesticides and other chemicals,
    • Evaluating the EPA’s response to reported incidents of unintended effects from pet collar pesticides, and
    • Auditing the Toxic Substances Control Act’s New Chemicals Review Process.

4. Safeguarding Scientific Integrity Principles. The EPA must ground science-based decisions in principles of scientific integrity to ensure human health and the environment are protected by using the best-available science.

The EPA is unwavering in its commitment to promptly address scientific integrity concerns and investigate and adjudicate allegations. The EPA will continue to strengthen its robust mechanisms to protect and maintain a culture of scientific integrity and is on target to develop and implement procedures to address allegations, including violations involving high-profile issues or senior officials.

The OIG has no planned projects but will continue to evaluate the EPA’s January 2021 PFBS Toxicity Assessment.

5. Ensuring Agency Systems and Other Critical Infrastructure Are Protected Against Cyberthreats. Information technology is a fundamental and essential resource for the EPA to carry out its mission, and the Agency must ensure its systems and our nation’s critical infrastructure are protected against cyberthreats.

The Agency developed processes to improve compliance with federal requirements and Agency policy and metrics to monitor progress toward cybersecurity improvements and has improved internal procedures and roles toward oversight and review of Agency cybersecurity initiatives and processes.

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Auditing classification and security controls of the EPA’s high-value assets;
  • Auditing the review of active directory user account security controls;
  • Auditing the EPA’s cybersecurity incident detection and response capability;
  • Auditing EPA compliance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act for FYs 2022 and 2023;
  • Auditing access security controls for the EPA’s Central Data Exchange and Integrated Risk Information System;
  • Auditing the assessment of cybersecurity risks to community water systems under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018; and
  • Auditing EPA internal controls to account for and secure laptops.

6. Managing Business Operations and Resources. The EPA must have effective business operations to achieve its mission and safeguard taxpayer dollars.

The Agency is implementing workforce planning and knowledge transfer strategies to support succession planning across the Agency and is adopting new workforce and workplace innovations to support the future of work. In response to increases in workload resulting from the IIJA and the IRA, the Agency is working to leverage all available hiring authorities to expedite the hiring of new employees, followed by timely onboarding and training.

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Auditing EPA oversight of State Drinking Water System Operator Certification Programs,
  • Auditing the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program,
  • Auditing EPA Payment Integrity Information Act reporting for FY 2022,
  • Auditing the EPA’s effectiveness of its Use of Special Account Funds,
  • Auditing IIJA funds used for Superfund Sites awaiting funding, and
  • Auditing statutorily required vs. nonstatutorily required work.

7. Enforcing Compliance with Environmental Laws and Regulations. Through enforcement, the EPA ensures that regulated entities are following environmental laws and will continue to do so, as enforcement actions effectively deter future noncompliance.

Building on a historically strong program, under the current administration, the EPA has increased its focus on traditional civil and criminal enforcement tools, with particular attention on environmental and public health threats to overburdened communities.

The OIG’s planned and ongoing projects include:

  • Evaluating the EPA’s oversight of Title V permit review and revisions;
  • Evaluating land use controls at RCRA corrective action sites;
  • Auditing the implementation of Clean Air Act emissions offset requirements;
  • Auditing the EPA’s distribution of American Rescue Plan funds for air quality monitoring;
  • Evaluating EPA response and oversight related to drinking water contamination in Jackson, Mississippi; and
  • Evaluating oversight of hazardous waste at EPA laboratories.

8. Managing Increased Investment in Infrastructure. The EPA must ensure its infrastructure projects, which constitute the Agency’s largest investment, use IIJA appropriations effectively.

The enactment of the IIJA has greatly increased the amount of resources the EPA is responsible for directing into infrastructure investments and will also increase the number and types of grantees with whom the EPA will be working. To provide effective oversight for programs that received infrastructure funding, the Agency continues to promote efficiency and ensure compliance with the IIJA provisions. This oversight includes the establishment of a Program Integrity Framework to focus on the agencywide applications of risk management, payment integrity, and internal controls. Additional Agency efforts include:

  • Developing performance measures to monitor and report on progress, as outlined in the IIJA Program Implementation Plans;
    • Launching several technical assistance programs/initiatives to help communities better access IIJA funding;
    • Engaging stakeholders to hold quarterly fraud trainings for Agency personnel;
    • Implementing additional controls within the Agency’s financial systems to track infrastructure investments by appropriation, program, etc.;
    • Implementing a more robust fraud detection and prevention program; and
    • Employing an industrial engagement strategy for partners with IIJA funding.

“Six evaluation projects that address IIJA oversight are currently under development,” the Oversight Plan states. “The projects will focus on capacity reviews for clean water and drinking water state revolving funds, including a pulse survey on states’ perceptions of their capacity to manage and use IIJA funds. The OIG will also inspect Superfund sites receiving IIJA funds to ensure their compliance with public safety-related requirements and later to ensure they are successfully using their IIJA funds as intended.”

Anyone with knowledge of potential waste, fraud, and abuse relating to EPA operations and programs is encouraged to report it to the OIG Hotline at 1-888-546-8740 or

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