Is the MSHA accountability office accountable?

March 3, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

We broke a story today in the Gazette about a previously unpublished report to Congress about the work of the MSHA Office of Accountability:

Federal mine safety regulators quietly warned lawmakers just two weeks before the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster about serious enforcement lapses, including incomplete inspections and inadequate enforcement actions, according to a previously unpublished report to Congress.

The report, which I’ve posted here, appears to be further proof that the MSHA District 4 Office here in Southern West Virginia is hardly alone in failing the nation’s coal miners.

MSHA’s internal accountability program has taken at least two hits from the Labor Department Inspector General (see here and here).  The current accountability office effort was started in June 2007 by then-MSHA chief Richard Stickler.

But it’s hard to understand exactly how this program helps make MSHA more accountable, given that the agency doesn’t even make the office’s audit reports readily available on its Web site.

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