This week, the media have begun reporting a scandal at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a branch of the Interior Department. Investigators from the Interior Department’s own Inspector General found that MMS officials had, to put it kindly, inappropriate financial and personal relationships with the oil companies that they regulate.
The MMS runs the controversial Royalty-In-Kind program, which “allows energy companies to pay the government in oil and gas, rather than cash, for the privilege of drilling on government land.”
Recall our discussion last week of how the two political branches can control or influence agencies. There are a few interesting points here.
First, the Justice Department refused to prosecute two of the highest ranking officials named in the Inspector General’s report, reportedly creating tension with officials at the Interior Department. Why might Justice refuse to prosecute here? Can Congress do anything if Justice fails to prosecute?
Second, auditors at the Interior Department said they weren’t allowed to audit the MMS for failing to properly collect royalties from the oil companies. Again, can Congress do anything in this regard? If so, what? And what should President Bush do?