GAO is looking into phony credentials

The General Accounting Office is undertaking an extensive review of the credentials of senior government officials at a half-dozen agencies.

The audit began following a congressional request that GAO examine the use of academic credentials from unaccredited schools by federal employees and applicants for government jobs.

The inquiry was triggered by reports that Laura Callahan, once deputy CIO of the Homeland Security Department, had acquired three degrees, including a doctorate, from an unaccredited organization in Wyoming that required little or no course work. Callahan was placed on administrative leave in early June while DHS officials investigated the reports.

The department's investigation continues, but several sources have confirmed that her security clearance has been revoked. Neither DHS officials nor Callahan's lawyer have returned phone calls to reporters asking about Callahan's status at the department.

The GAO reviews, targeting officials at the GS-15 level and above, focus on agencies with health- and safety-related functions, officials familiar with the audit said. Among the agencies whose employees' credentials are being examined are DHS, Office of Personnel Management, and departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Transportation, the officials said.

In a separate response to the issue, OPM hosted two half-day seminars last week for federal human resources and personnel security managers on how to verify education credentials.

One attendee who asked that his name not be used said the buzz at the session he attended was about the GAO investigation. 'The shop talk was that GAO is investigating six federal agencies ' to do a rather complete degree audit, and there was a fair amount of worrying about that,' he said.

Officials at GAO would not comment because the audit is ongoing.

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