This week, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation to provide much-needed reforms to the Minerals Management Service's (MMS) Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) Program (S. 3543). Yesterday, POGO released a letter in support of the legislation.
In addition to providing much-needed ethical reforms to prevent Greg Smith-style conflicts of interest from happening in the future, the bill also calls for the suspension of the expansion of the RIK Program until DOI conducts a comprehensive review that certifies to Congress that the program is accurately measuring the royalty amounts owed to taxpayers.
This bill acknowledges that the problems in RIK are more than just sex and drugs. This program has systemic resource management issues, particularly in its poor use of auditing, the most basic financial accounting tool available to the government. Under S. 3543, unauditable oil and natural gas drilling leases end, since MMS can no longer use superficial compliance reviews in place of audits. POGO is hopeful that this bill--which recognizes the need to give reforms teeth through provisions like making an illegal gratuity a felony punishable by 2 years in prison--will begin to restore ethical conduct and accountability to resource management.