Energy Department wastes money on training, GAO says

ksaldarini@govexec.com

Wasteful spending on unnecessary courses and a poorly constructed training budget are among the reasons the Energy Department spends close to $300 more per employee on training than major private sector companies, the General Accounting Office concludes in a new report.

In 1997, DOE spent $379 million on training, 85 percent of which went to contractors. That figure could be greatly reduced if DOE had a centralized training plan that prevented courses from being duplicated and set standards for what can be offered, GAO concluded.

Among the types of training currently offered to DOE employees and contractors that GAO deemed questionable were the following courses: "Determining Social Styles in the Workplace," "Employees Facing Mid-Life Questions," and "Defensive Driving."

"DOE has not standardized the development and delivery of training courses that have general application across the department. This has produced unnecessary and duplicative training courses throughout DOE," the report said.

GAO auditors noted widely varying costs for the same classes in different DOE locations. In one instance, a course called "Hands-On Fire Extinguisher Use" cost $2.50 per employee in one office and $102 per employee in another.

The solution, GAO said, is a centralized training plan that would eliminate independently developed courses and mandate that classes be offered through DOE-run training centers called "centers for excellence."

DOE tried to write such a plan in 1997, but GAO said the plan contained unrealistic cost and savings estimates and made no mention of mandating the centers as the sole avenues for training at Energy.

GAO also noted that 90 percent of DOE training courses are not mandated by law. Energy officials responded by saying that much of the department's training is required for industry certification standards such as those set by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

"While this training is not normally defined as 'mandated' by externally imposed law or regulation, it is required and it does promote efficient as well as safe practices," DOE said in its response to the report.

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