They're supposed to be studying rocks and protecting national parkland, but, like the best of us, some of the U.S. Department of the Interior's 80,000 employees are prone to getting a little, well, sidetracked.
That's the conclusion detailed in a 15-page report released this week (click for PDF) by the federal agency's watchdog arm. Its title, "Excessive Indulgences: Personal Use of the Internet at the Department of the Interior" and eye-catching cover--featuring clip-art of an empty shopping cart, a woman's bare, toned midriff, chess pieces, and slot machine reels--don't leave much to the imagination.
But here are some numbers shared by the auditors, who collected and analyzed Internet usage logs over a specific seven-day period from six bureaus and offices, including the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, and Minerals Management Service:
* 4,732 log entries related to sexually explicit and gambling Web sites had been accessed by department computers during the week.
* 7,763 computer users spent over 2,004 hours accessing game and auction sites during the same week.
* If one full-time employee works 2,080 hours per year, then that means the equivalent of 50 full-time employees spend all their working hours surfing online gaming and auction sites over the course of a year.
* A number of computer users spent 30 minutes to an hour at porn sites.
* In one egregious case, a single machine had 2,369 log entries at two Internet game sites, indicating 14 hours spent there that week.
Based on that sample, the auditors concluded the diversions are costing 104,221 working hours in lost productivity--or, put another way, potentially more than $2 million.
For the record, department policy prohibits a number of Internet-fueled escapades on government time, including gambling, viewing sexually explicit material, and engaging in political and commercial activities.
The report's advice for the bosses? Beef up filtering software and training programs, and, most important, catch and punish offenders.