Material weaknesses and significant deficiencies continue under BBG CEO John Lansing

BBG Watch Commentary

Independent Auditor’s Report on the Broadcasting Board of Governors 2016 and 2015 Financial Statements, ordered by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), shows that “material weaknesses” and “significant deficiencies” have continued under BBG CEO John Lansing’s watch in FY 2016. He had joined the agency in September 2015.

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It also appears that John Lansing does not want to own the results of the audit. Instead of offering his own response, he had Acting Chief Financial Officer write a response.

Here are some of the findings from Kearny&Company audit of the consolidated financial statements of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for the year ended September 30, 2016:

Because BBG lacked effective grantee oversight, the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse of Federal funds increases. An organized and documented approach to oversight is needed to demonstrate accountability and mitigate the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse. We have identified weaknesses in controls over grantee monitoring since our audit of BBG’s FY 2013 financial statements.
 

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Without an effective information security program, BBG is vulnerable to IT-centered attacks and threats. Information security program weaknesses can affect the integrity of financial applications, which increases the risk that sensitive financial information could be accessed by unauthorized individuals or that financial transactions could be altered either accidentally or intentionally. Information security program weaknesses increase the risk that BBG will be unable to report financial data accurately. We have reported weaknesses in IT security controls as a significant deficiency since our audit of BBG’s FY 2013 financial statements.
 

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As noted in our Independent Auditor’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting, BBG took steps to strengthen its grantee monitoring program during FY 2016. Despite these efforts, BBG has not fully implemented many of its newly designed monitoring controls. As a result, BBG continued to be in substantial noncompliance with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 2, Subtitle A, Chapter II, Part 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, which provides guidance to agencies for grant oversight.
 

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BBG CEO John Lansing has no prior experience in U.S. government operations, intercultural communications, international news media, U.S. foreign policy, or U.S. public diplomacy, but he is reported to have been a successful private sector manager of a cable entertainment TV company.

Lansing’s lack of prior U.S. government service experience may be partly responsible for continued material weaknesses and significant deficiencies the federal agency’s financial operations and administrative procedures under his watch.

Lansing’s lack of prior experience in intercultural communications, U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. public diplomacy may be partly responsible for insufficient oversight, programming deficiencies, biased U.S. election campaign coverage and other Charter violations at the Voice of America (VOA). They included the online posting of a video during the U.S. presidential election campaign in which Donald Trump was called a “pig” and other similar names without any response or countervailing content. VOA is required by the VOA Charter to provide balancing content at the same time and in same report when serious charges and accusations are made against any individual.

With John Lansing not paying attention or unable to spot these problems, the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America, under director Amanda Bennett, also aired one-sided programs attacking Bernie Sanders and even Senate Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). The unproven accusation aired by the Voice of America against Senator Reid in a short video had been described earlier by his office as a lie.

SEE: Voice of America should stick to journalism, stop one-sided name-calling in reports on Donald Trump, BBG Watch, November 15, 2016.

 
John Lansing was recommended for the BBG CEO position by outgoing BBG chairman Jeff Shell after his first choice, Andy Lack, spent only a few months with the agency and then suddenly left.

The Obama White House was planning to replace Shell as BBG chairman, but with Donald Trump’s electoral victory it will now be up to him to select a Republican chairman, assuming the BBG board and the agency will continue under the new administration in their current form.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and the committee’s Ranking Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) had introduced a bill to reform the structure of the Broadcasting Board to Governors and drastically cut down its bureaucracy. Royce and Engel stated in the Findings and Declarations section of the 2015 bill, H.R. 2323, that “The size and make-up of the BBG work-force should be closely examined, given the agency’s broader broadcasting and technical mission, as well as changing media technologies.” They also noted that “The BBG should be structured to ensure that more taxpayer dollars are dedicated to the substantive, broadcasting, and information-related elements of the agency’s mission.”

More significantly, the bipartisan authors of H.R. 2323, noted:

According to the Office of the Inspector General, the BBG’s Office of Contracts is not in compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, lacks appropriate contract oversight, and violates the Anti-Deficiency Act. The Office of the Inspector General also determined that the Broadcasting Board of Governors has not adequately performed full and open competitions or price determinations, has entered into hundreds of personal service contracts without statutory authority, and contractors regularly work without valid contracts in place.
 
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The annual survey conducted by the “Partnership for Public Service” consistently ranks the Broadcasting Board of Governors at or near the bottom of all Federal agencies in terms of “overall best places to work” and “the extent to which employees feel their skills and talents are used effectively”. The consistency of these low scores point to structural, cultural, and functional problems at the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 

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John Lansing and outgoing BBG Chairman Jeff Shell have publicly opposed the key reform provisions of the bipartisan bill which is still pending in Congress. Many former BBG members and other experts are supporting the reform bill.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors has been described by a Washington Post columnist as regular bottom-feeder in employee morale. BBG’s federal employees have given Lansing lower marks on leadership and employee engagement in the 2016 Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OMP) than they had given to BBG management teams in previous years. Even then, these FEVS results at the BBG were already record low.

ALSO READ: Pre-Trump bureaucratic hiring frenzy by BBG and VOA chiefs who may soon leave, BBG Watch, November 17, 2016

 
Photo: BBG CEO and Director John Lansing with outgoing BBG Chairman Jeff Shell in the forefront.

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