The EPA OIG’s fiscal year 2024 investigative priorities describe the OI’s primary areas of focus. As a starting point for identifying its investigative priorities, the OI looked to the top management and performance challenges facing the EPA and the CSB, as identified in the OIG’s annual reports. The OI also considered the Agency’s and the Board’s missions and the budgetary priorities set forth by Congress; observations from previous investigative work; emerging vulnerabilities in the drinking and wastewater sectors; and projects being planned or funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. The OI identified four investigative priorities for fiscal year 2024: environmental infrastructure, grant fraud, program fraud, and laboratory fraud. Of course, these investigative priorities are subject to change throughout the fiscal year as new challenges and risks evolve and emerge.
Environmental Infrastructure: One of the EPA’s most important functions is strengthening and maintaining secure, functioning, and resilient drinking water and wastewater sectors. Through the clean water state revolving funds and the drinking water state revolving funds, the EPA has partnered with the states to fund over $200 billion in water improvement projects using revolving low-cost loans and other financing options. And through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the EPA has provided approximately $20 billion in long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects and to state infrastructure financing authorities.
Grant Fraud: The EPA oversees billions of dollars in grants to fund environmental research, cleanup technologies, land remediation, and climate change mitigation. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, the EPA received approximately $100 billion, significantly increasing the size and scope of these grant programs. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act provides the EPA with approximately $41.5 billion for significant investments in climate change, air quality, and environmental justice. Nearly $14 billion of this money will go to two or three nonprofit entities, which will support the financing of clean technology projects and take equity positions in clean technology companies. The OI will focus on investigating allegations of fraud related to these programs and their recipients and subrecipients.
Program Fraud: The OIG, through the OI, is responsible for “conduct[ing], supervis[ing], and coordinat[ing] … investigations relating to the programs and operations of the” EPA and the CSB. 5 U.S.C. § 404(a)(1). These investigations not only serve “to prevent and detect fraud and abuse,” but to ensure that EPA and CSB programs and operations are administered economically, efficiently, and effectively.
Laboratory Fraud: Laboratory fraud investigations address laboratory-related misconduct, including fraud related to water and air quality, Superfund remediation measurements, payments made by the EPA for erroneous environmental testing data, and falsification of testing results. Investigations also include fraud involving quality control testing when a contractor or laboratory misrepresents the results of testing to earn contract incentives, falsely or to avoid operations shutdown, or to increase profits or limit costs.