The Office of Inspector General investigates complaints or allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct by employees or contractors that involve or give rise to fraud, waste or abuse within the programs or operations of the FCC.
Allegations are received primarily from FCC employees and licensees. However, members of Congress, other agencies, citizens, contractors and public interest groups also refer matters to the OIG for investigation. Allegations of suspected wrongdoing are also received from FCC managers and the OIG audit program.
Another source for complaints is the OIG Hotline: 1 - 888-863-2244 or (202) 418-0473.
Aspects of an investigation include:
Analysis of Complaint/Allegation
Once an allegation or complaint is received, an analysis (preliminary inquiry) is conducted to determine whether further action is warranted and, if so, what type of action is needed.
Guidelines used in this analysis are intended to ensure an effective utilization of available resources.
The OIG considers the following factors in evaluating a complaint or allegation:
- Indications and plausibility of allegations that a violation of a statute or regulation under OIG jurisdiction has been committed;
- Indications that the matter may significantly affect public health and safety;
- the nature and seriousness of the alleged activity;
- the effect of the alleged illegal or improper activity on FCC programs and operations;
- the level of the position of individuals against whom the allegations are made (wrongdoing by high-ranking agency officials is more damaging);
- the deterrent effect knowledge of the investigation may have on others who may consider committing similar illegal or improper acts; and
- other considerations that the IG deems appropriate.
If the complaint has potential merit but does not satisfy the criteria above, the matter may also be referred to an FCC operating organization or to another law enforcement agency. In addition, allegations that are not investigated immediately may be retained for use as the basis for broad programmatic inquiries or audits.
Because the goal of an investigation is to determine the truth or falsity of matters alleged, the procedures used in the investigative process focus on obtaining relevant facts so as to address all aspects of an allegation.
An investigative plan outlines the pertinent facts of an allegation and how to best obtain evidence that will either prove or disprove matters essential to the offense alleged.
Investigative activities include examination of documents, such as files, contracts, vouchers, reports, and memoranda. Investigators also obtain information by interviewing witnesses, technical experts, and the subjects of investigations.
Information obtained from such interviews may be documented in records of interviews, by affidavits sworn under oath, and in depositions given under oath, and transcribed by a court reporter.
After all relevant information is gathered, an investigative report is prepared. When there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the report or a referral may be presented to the DOJ or other law enforcement entity to consider for prosecution in Federal Court or other appropriate court. If the evidence presented shows an administrative offense demonstrating fraud, waste, or abuse, the report will be sent to appropriate FCC manager(s) for action.
If an investigation clears an employee of wrongdoing, the employee will be notified.
OIG Access to Documents and Individuals
Section 6 of the Inspector General Act gives the IG authority to obtain the following documents from the agency: all records, reports, audits, reviews, recommendations, and other materials that relate to FCC programs and operations.
This section of the statute also authorizes the IG to issue subpoenas to obtain documents from outside the Federal government. Access to financial records is authorized under the Right to Financial Privacy Act.
Government employees mainly participate in OIG investigations by providing information to investigators and participating in interviews.
The vast majority of employees voluntarily consent to interviews and fully cooperate by supplying information and documents within their control. Employees who do not voluntarily cooperate may be ordered by a supervisor to appear for an interview with an OIG investigator. Employees who disobey such an order may be disciplined, subject to any employee rights discussed below. Of course, false statements made in the course of an investigation may be subject to both criminal and administrative penalties.
Employee Rights and Warnings
OIG interviews are conducted in compliance with constitutional rights. Before beginning an interview, OIG investigators identify themselves, present their credentials, and state the nature and purpose of the interview.
When applicable, a statement of the individual’s rights with regard to, among other things, remaining silent and obtaining legal counsel or union representation is stated directly and personally at each interview. These statements of rights are referred to as “warnings.”
The four types of warnings that may be administered during investigations are Miranda, Kalkines, Garrity, and Weingarten.
- Miranda warnings are given when an individual is being interviewed concerning his or her own potentially criminal misconduct and is taken into custody or deprived of freedom in a significant way. Under this warning, one is advised that pursuant to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution, anything said may be used against him or her, and that he or she is entitled to remain silent or otherwise not incriminate himself or herself, and to the assistance of an attorney.
- Kalkines warnings are given when the possibility of criminal prosecution has been removed, usually by a declination to prosecute by the DOJ, and the employee is required to answer questions relating to the performance of his or her official duties or be subject to disciplinary action.
- Garrity warnings are given when an individual is requested to give information on a voluntary basis in connection with his or her own administrative misconduct, and the answers might also be used in a future criminal proceeding. The individual is apprised of his or her right to remain silent if the answers may tend to incriminate him or her; that anything said may be used against him or her in either a criminal or administrative proceeding; and he or she cannot be disciplined for remaining silent.
- Weingarten warnings are given to a bargaining unit employee, who is the subject of an investigation. The employee is notified that he or she is entitled to union representation during interviews that may result in disciplinary action against such employee. An employee must request such union representation before the right becomes operational.
It is OIG policy to allow an interviewed employee, who may or may not be the subject of an investigation, to have a legal, union or other representative present.
Employees requesting legal, union or other representation are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to arrange this representation. Legal or other representation is at the expense of the individual employee. The Commission does not provide attorneys for this purpose.
The role of the representative is to provide counsel or advice, not to answer questions on behalf of the employee. Representatives are not permitted to question the OIG investigator or otherwise dominate or disrupt the interview or the investigation.
The investigative report details pertinent facts of a case and describes available evidence of all relevant aspects of any allegation against individuals, including aspects of an allegation not substantiated.
Investigative reports are given to officials and managers who have a need to know in order to properly determine whether disciplinary or other administrative action is warranted. If an administrative action is deemed appropriate, managers consult with the Office of Associate Managing Director – Human Resources Management and/or the Office of the General Counsel before initiating discipline. The appropriate agency official is expected to advise the OIG within 120 days of receiving the investigative report as to what disciplinary or other action has been proposed or taken in response to investigative report findings, or if no action is taken.
The cover letter used with some investigative reports may contain information and guidance. When the IG observes that an issue identified in the transmitted report is a recurring or systematic problem, or one reported in other OIG products, the cover letter is used to identify the problem to managers in this broader context.
Investigative Document Distribution
OIG reports and documents are made available internally and publicly, subject to the restrictions imposed by the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
The Freedom of Information Act generally provides individuals and entities with access to “agency records” except as specifically protected from disclosure under the exemptions or exclusions of that Act.
The Privacy Act generally prohibits the release of information pertaining to a particular individual without the consent of the individual.
Accordingly, the reports and documents generally are made available to FCC staff with a “need to know” for official purposes. With respect to requests from the general public, the reports and documents are made available upon request subject to any applicable privacy interests and conformance with the Freedom of Information Act.
What is the Role of the FCC Employee in OIG Investigations?
Much of the success of the OIG mission to combat fraud, waste, and abuse depends on the cooperation of all FCC employees.
Why Report Wrongdoing?
Statistics demonstrate that the majority of allegations of wrongdoing reported to the OIG come from employees. There are two clear bases for those statistics. First, employees are in the best position to observe wrongdoing and have the technical expertise to assess wrongful actions. Second, under federal law and executive order, all government employees are required to report violations of law and regulations.
How to Report Wrongdoing
Any indications of fraud, waste, abuse of authority, mismanagement, or other wrongdoing should be reported to the OIG, your supervisor, or other appropriate authorities. You may contact the OIG directly, by telephone at (202) 418-0470 or (202) 418-0473. Agency managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring that allegations of wrongdoing they receive are promptly reported to the OIG, or appropriate authority.
What to Report
The information you provide to the OIG should be sufficient for an investigator to evaluate or act on. You should try to provide the following information if possible:
- A brief, accurate statement of the facts believed to provide evidence of wrongdoing;
- names, addresses, and office locations of pertinent individuals and organizations;
- dates when the suspected wrongdoing took place or is expected to occur;
- how you became aware of the information;
- any pertinent documents within your possession; and
- names, addresses, office locations, and telephone numbers of others (including licensees) who may have information about the suspected wrongdoing.
Employees should not engage in any independent inquiry or investigation and should not discuss the matter with the persons suspected of wrongdoing. Employees should provide the OIG with any new or additional information pertinent to the allegation.
How You are Protected
You may make an allegation anonymously. If you choose to identify yourself, under the Act your name will not be revealed without your consent unless the IG determines that the disclosure is unavoidable during the course of an investigation. Reprisal and retaliation for reporting wrongdoing is prohibited by Federal law and regulations, and no action may be taken against you for having complained or disclosed information to the OIG, unless the complaint was made or the information disclosed with the knowledge that it was false or with willful disregard for its truth or falsity.