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Livermore Lab Loses Laptops

By Ed O'Keefe

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. (Photo by AP)

The federal government has managed to (at least temporarily) misplace more laptops, according to the Energy Department's internal watchdogs. An inventory review at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory turned up missing laptops and other office equipment, stemming mostly from last year's dismissal of more than 2,000 employees. Employees also reported the theft of government-issued laptops from personal vehicles.

The lab uses an internal property-tracking system called Sunflower, "which reflects the cradle to grave history of each property item," according to the inspector general's report. Investigators determined that employees frequently failed to quickly update property information, leading to some losses or the temporary displacement of equipment.

Amid budget cuts, Livermore laid off more than 2,000 staffers last year, with roughly 750 receiving termination notices on the same day they were asked to leave.

"All of these terminations potentially necessitated updates to the property database, but the involuntary terminations had the potential to pose particular challenges because of the immediacy of individuals’ departures." (Departing workers may have been more focused on stunned good-byes than mundane paperwork related to the disposition of government computers. Shocker.)

Investigators also spoke with nine employees who reported their government-issued laptops stolen. Five said the computers were stolen from personal vehicles while away from the office, even as department policy bars removing the computers from the office. Four of those workers admitted that their laptops were clearly visible from outside the vehicles. None of the employees faced disciplinary action or were held financially liable, according to the report.

The big problem here? Training. The lab didn't provide adequate guidance to employees about keeping tabs on equipment, relying instead on an informal training process. Chalk this up as another example of a government agency trimming training costs from tight budgets. But also add this to a long list of incidents involving the loss of government property at the hands of employees who fail to follow the rules.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 2, 2009; 2:22 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Oversight  
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Posted by: bludbaf | June 2, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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