Audit blasts BPA hiring, promotion practices

PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Department of Energy has released a highly critical audit of human resources activities at Bonneville Power Administration, saying the agency’s hiring and promotion practices are ineffective.

The audit revealed pervasive misapplications and departures from federal hiring guidelines and laws. Major violations were found in more than half the hiring cases reviewed, with applicants either being “erroneously disqualified or mis-qualified.”

Many of the specific problems were identified as such in the agency’s 2010 audit. The 2013 Human Capital Management Accountability Program audit, released Friday under Freedom of Information Act requests from several parties, said those issues have only gotten worse.

Portland-based BPA is the region’s biggest utility. It sells power from 31 hydroelectric dams to 140 publicly owned utilities, and operates the bulk of the region’s electric grid.

The bad audit comes at a time when the Office of Inspector General is reviewing complaints from whistleblowers.

The Inspector General’s office issued a management alert July 16 after receiving “credible” reports of retaliation against whistleblowers about hiring violations and discrimination against veterans. The Energy Department placed BPA Administrator Bill Drummond and Chief Operating Officer Anita Decker on indefinite leave.

The department still hasn’t said why the two were suspended.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that acting administrator Elliot Mainzer, in his weekly communiqué with BPA employees, said Friday that the agency was making strides in offering jobs to disadvantaged applicants eligible for priority placement. He also said the team continued to develop its audit response, which is supposed to be ready in October.

A number of current and former BPA managers downplay the extent of the problems. While they acknowledge BPA improperly eliminated job applicants, they say the intent was to winnow pools of qualified applicants to manageable numbers.

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