HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) — Bobby Maxwell kept a close eye on the oil industry for more than 20 years as a government auditor. But he said the federal agency he worked for is now a “cult of corruption” — a claim backed up by a recent government report.
Bobby Maxwell, a long-time auditor of the oil industry, says his former agency is corrupt “top to bottom.”
“I believe the management we were under was showing favoritism to the oil industry,” Maxwell told CNN.
Maxwell is referring to a tiny agency within the Department of the Interior called the Minerals Management Service, which manages the nation’s natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on federal lands.
A report, conducted by the Interior Department’s inspector general and released earlier this month, found that employees at the agency received improper gifts from energy industry officials and engaged with them in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations. It looked at activities at the agency from 2003 through 2006.
Maxwell said the report doesn’t surprise him. The agency, he said, is corrupt “top to bottom.” Watch a failure to “protect America’s interests” »
“It sounds like they forgot they work for the government,” he said. “It’s disgusting. … There’s no excuse for that. Those people should not be working in those positions at all.
“They crossed a lot of lines that should never have been crossed,” he said. “They lost all objectivity.”
Maxwell was in charge of keeping track of the millions in royalty payments owed taxpayers by oil and gas companies who explored and found oil on U.S. government lands.
He estimates he and his team were responsible for saving the government close to $500 million in royalties, either underpaid or somehow skipped by oil and gas companies, over the years.
He received the Interior Department’s highest award in 2003 for his work. But not long afterward, his job was killed.
He believes it was retribution for his cracking down on Big Oil and blowing the whistle on what he believes was a “cult of corruption” within the agency. The Interior Department denies that, saying his job was reorganized as part of routine restructuring.
Just before he lost his job, he said, one of his superiors in Washington ordered him not to investigate why Shell Oil had raised its oil transportation costs. Maxwell said it jumped from 90 cents to $3 a barrel without adequate explanation. The government paid Shell to transport oil from offshore platforms.
When asked why a government worker would tell an auditor not to investigate, he said: “I believe it started from the top down,” he said.
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