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Office of Inspector General

EPA OIG Hotline

Recognizing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

Recognizing Fraud

Fraud is a false representation about a material fact. It is any intentional deception designed to unlawfully deprive the United States or EPA of something of value or to secure for an individual a benefit, privilege, allowance, or consideration to which he or she is not entitled.

Examples of Key Fraud Indicators
  • Unexplained entries of altered records
  • Unusually large amounts of payments in cash
  • Inadequate or missing documentation
  • Delays in producing requested documentation
  • Non-serial number transactions
  • Unauthorized transactions
  • Unusual patterns and trends in contracting and procurement
  • Unrealistic contract prices
  • Increase in claims for reimbursement
  • Offers of gifts, money, or other gratuities from contractors, grantees, or other individuals dealing with the government
  • Photocopies of documents where it is difficult to detect alteration
  • False or misleading information
  • Missing approval signatures
  • Lack of separation of duties
  • Discrepancies in handwriting
  • Lack of or out-of-date written policies and procedures, including those safeguarding assets
  • Lack of communication and/or support for ethical standards by management
  • Uncharacteristic behavior, including a person living beyond his/her means
  • Unaccountable funds
  • Uncharacteristic willingness to settle claims
  • Fictitious vendors
  • Unauthorized personnel with access
  • Overly complex organizational structure
  • High turnover rate
  • Reassignment of personnel
  • Termination of key personnel
  • "Missing" files, reports, data, and invoices (both electronic and paper)
  • Missing, weak, or inadequate internal controls
  • Management override of key internal controls
  • Inadequate monitoring by management
  • A history of impropriety

Recognizing Waste

Waste involves the taxpayers not receiving a reasonable value for money in connection with any government-funded activities due to an inappropriate act or omission. Most waste does not involve a violation of law; rather, waste relates primarily to mismanagement, inappropriate actions, and inadequate oversight.

Recognizing AbuseBrochures on Fraud, Waste and Abuse

Abuse involves behavior that is deficient or improper when compared with behavior that a prudent person would consider reasonable and necessary business practice given the facts and circumstances. Abuse also includes misuse of authority or position for personal financial interests or those of an immediate or close family member or business associate. Abuse does not necessarily involve fraud or violations of laws, regulations, or provisions of a contract or grant agreement.

Examples of Abuse
  • Creating unneeded overtime.
  • Requesting staff to perform personal errands or work tasks for a supervisor or manager.
  • Performing tasks related to a personal business during working hours and on government equipment.
  • Misusing the official's position for personal gain (including not only the official's personal interests but the interests of family members or others).
  • Making travel choices that are contrary to existing travel policies or are unnecessarily extravagant or expensive.
  • Making procurement of vendor selections that are contrary to existing policies or are unnecessarily extravagant or expensive.

Brochures on Fraud, Waste and Abuse

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About the Hotline

The EPA OIG hotline receives complaints of fraud, waste, and abuse in EPA programs and operations including mismanagement or violations of law, rules, or regulations by EPA employees or program participants. Complaints may be received directly from EPA employees, participants in EPA programs, or the general public.

The EPA OIG hotline is staffed by federal law enforcement agents. Hotline complaints may be submitted by mail, telephone, fax, or e-mail. Hotline complaints are reviewed by auditors, evaluators, and/or criminal investigators as conditions warrant. The initial receipt of any complaint or allegation must be handled by an OIG special agent. No other OIG employees are authorized to receive complaints or allegations on behalf of the OIG.

Upon receipt of a specific allegation of fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement, the OIG may take any one of the following actions:
  1. open an OIG investigation or audit;
  2. refer the matter to EPA management for appropriate review and action; or
  3. refer the allegation to another Federal agency, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

All matters significant enough to require a response are monitored until the necessary resolution action is planned or taken. Allegations with limited specificity or merit may be held in abeyance until further specific details are reported. Complaints are analyzed to identify trends which should be considered in the audit and investigative planning processes.

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What to Report

Fraud, Waste, or Abuse in EPA Programs

The purpose of the EPA OIG Hotline is to receive complaints of fraud, waste, or abuse in EPA programs and operations including mismanagement or violations of law, rules, or regulations by EPA employees or program participants.

Examples of Reportable Violations
  • Contract, procurement, and grant fraud
  • Bribery and acceptance of gratuities
  • Significant mismanagement and waste of funds
  • Conflict of interest
  • Travel fraud
  • Abuse of authority
  • Theft or abuse of Government property
  • Computer crime

Please be as specific as possible. Provide relevant names, dates and times, locations and, where appropriate, include the name of the contractor or grantee, and contract or grant numbers, and award dates.

Other Helpful Information to Provide
  • How you became aware of the problem?
  • Have efforts been made to correct the problem?
  • Names of others affected by the problem
  • Statute or regulation violated
  • What you want EPA to do?

Minor incidents, such as, minor time and attendance abuse, or misuse of Government property should be reported to appropriate program managers. Personnel matters involving requests for individual relief should be handled through the appropriate grievance process with management, and offices of personnel, equal employment and civil rights. For other questions and concerns not involving fraud, waste, or abuse in EPA programs, please see these helpful Resource Links on our About webpage.

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Whistleblower Protection

Confidentiality, Anonymity, & Whistleblower Protection

The IG Act and other pertinent laws protect persons making Hotline complaints.

Complaints Made by EPA Employees

In accordance with section 7(b) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, Exit as amended, the OIG shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an EPA employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee unless the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of an investigation. Any identifying information is confidential source material, and OIG employees must not disclose such information except to other OIG employees who have a need to know in connection with their official duties.

Complaints Made by Other Persons

Complainants who are not EPA employees do not have an automatic right to confidentiality under section 7(b) of the Inspector General Act of 1978.Exit However, non-EPA employees may specifically request confidentiality, and the OIG will protect the confidentiality of such complainants to the maximum extent permitted by law (for example, by using applicable exemptions and exclusions of the Freedom of Information Act and applicable exemptions of the Privacy Act).


If you do not wish to disclose your identity, you may remain anonymous when contacting the OIG. However, please keep in mind that anonymity may impede a quick or thorough investigation or the success of a later prosecution.

Whistleblower Protection Act

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The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPA) and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 Enhanced by the Act of 2012 provides protection rights for Federal employees against retaliation for whistleblowing activities. Under WPA, Federal employees may seek whistleblower protection from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). OSC is an independent executive agency whose responsibilities include investigating whistleblowers' complaints and litigating cases before the MSPB. MSPB has the authority to enforce their decision and to order corrective and disciplinary actions. Actions ordered can include restoring one's job, reversing suspensions, taking disciplinary action against a supervisor, and reimbursing attorney fees, medical and other costs, and damages.

Protection Under Environmental Statutes

Whistleblower protection provisions are written into six environmental statutes:

  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

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Employers subject to the provisions of the above statutes may not discriminate against any employee who engages in whistleblowing activities related to the above statutes. The Department of Labor has found that Federal employees may be covered by these protections. Complaints may be filed with the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

Role of the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 Exit was signed into law on November 27, 2012. The Act strengthens protection for federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in government operations.

Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars. They play a critical role in keeping our Government honest, efficient, and accountable. Recognizing that whistleblowers root out waste, fraud, and abuse, and protect public health and safety, federal laws strongly encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing. Federal laws also protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 directs Inspectors General to designate a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s role is to educate agency employees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and educate agency employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures. The Ombudsman is prohibited from acting as an employee’s or former employee’s legal representative, agent, or advocate.

Definition of Whistleblowing

Disclosure made to: Alleging:
  • U.S. Office of Special Counsel
  • EPA Inspector General
  • A supervisor or higher EPA manager
  • A violation of any law, rule, or regulation,
  • Gross mismanagement,
  • A gross waste of funds,
  • An abuse of authority,
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety

​Any reported disclosures are reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel Exit. OSC will evaluate the allegation(s) to determine whether it fits within those types of allegations listed above and whether it is substantially likely that any such allegation can be proven.

If OSC determines that the substantially likely standard is met, OSC will refer the matter back to the originating agency for investigation by the Inspector General. The IG will submit a report of its findings to OSC and the whistleblower gets to submit comments on this report. OSC will make comments on the IG report and recommendations based on the IG’s findings before sending it to the President and the appropriate congressional oversight committee(s).

Whistleblowers are Protected

It is a prohibited personnel practice for management to retaliate against whistleblowing federal employees. OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practice, with an emphasis on protecting federal government whistleblowers and other complainants. The federal workforce has been protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. That law, however, contained loopholes and was open to interpretations that were contrary to the interests of whistleblowers. Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 to close these loopholes and clarify the interpretations, strengthening protections for whistleblowers.

A Few of the Enhancements
  • Boost the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s capability to pursue disciplinary action against managers who
    retaliate against whistleblowing employees.
  • Provide for the awarding of enhanced monetary damages to whistleblower employees found to be victimized
    by a prohibited personnel practice. OSC seeks corrective action remedies (such as back pay and reinstatement)
    by negotiation or from the Merit Systems Protection Board for injuries suffered by whistleblowers.
  • Clarifying and expanding the nature of reports made by whistleblowers that are protected disclosures
    entitling the reporting employee to whistleblower protection.
  • Extends whistleblower protections to now applicable federal employees, employees of federal contractors, and grantees.

National Defense Authorization Act enhancements

The FY 13 National Defense Authorization Act contains provisions that essentially extend whistleblower protections, now applicable to Federal employees, to private sector based Federal contractors and grantees. These provisions, as applicable to DOD are final. For the rest of the Federal government, it is a four-year pilot program.

Feeling Retaliated Against for Speaking Up?
  1. File a complaint with OSC; or
  2. File a Union grievance; or
  3. If facing a significant personnel action, file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board and raise whistleblower retaliation as a defense to the personnel action.

Contact the EPA Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460

(202) 566-1513 

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File a Hotline Complaint Now

EPA OIG Hotline for Reporting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in EPA Programs
To determine whether your information is appropriate for the EPA OIG Hotline, please refer to the "What to Report to the EPA OIG Hotline" section above prior to initiating contact.

Postal Mail Telephone and Fax
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General Hotline
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Mailcode 2431T
Washington, DC 20460
Toll-Free: 1-888-546-8740 (Nationwide)
Local: 202-566-2476
Fax: 202-566-2599 (not to exceed 20 pages, including cover sheet and/or contact info.)

* If the line is busy due to caller volume, please leave a message and a trained federal special agent will return your call as soon as possible.


The identity of an individual who chooses to make a complaint via the Internet E-Mail system cannot be protected by the EPA OIG. By choosing to use electronic mail, you are NOT anonymous and you give up any right to confidentiality. An individual who desires confidentiality MUST make the complaint(s) in person, by telephone, or U.S. Mail, and must request confidentiality.

You can choose to email the Hotline at: OIG_Hotline@epa.gov to report fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement to EPA's OIG.

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OIG Independence of EPA

The EPA's Office of Inspector General is a part of EPA, although Congress provides our funding separate from the agency, to ensure our independence. We were created pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended Exit.

Environmental Protection Agency  |  Office of Inspector General
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. (2410T)  |  Washington, DC 20460  |  (202) 566-2391
OIG Hotline: 1-888-546-8740