The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, has added the Interior Department to its high-risk list due to concerns over its management of oil and natural gas resources.

The list first came out in 1990 and is updated biennially, and identifies government agencies that have “greater vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement,” and need the attention of Congress and the executive branch, the GAO said .

The oversight committees — the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — will release the GAO’s 177-page report updating the high-risk list Wednesday.

Interior “does not have reasonable assurance that it is collecting its share of billions of dollars of revenue from oil and gas produced on federal lands, and it continues to experience problems in hiring, training and retaining sufficient staff to provide oversight and management of oil and gas operations on federal lands and waters,” the GAO said.

“Further, Interior recently began restructuring its oil and gas program, which is inherently challenging, and there are many open questions about whether Interior has the capacity to undertake this reorganization while carrying out its range of responsibility,” the agency said.

In May 2010 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a secretarial order that divided the three conflicting missions of the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) — enforcement, energy development and revenue collection — into separate entities with independent missions. The embattled MMS was renamed Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), with Michael Bromwich as its director (see Daily GPI, May 21, 2010). In October 2010 the revenue collection arm of the former MMS became the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

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