The report found 90 instances in 65 cases, or 70 percent, where MSHA did not meet its timeframe goals:
• MSHA districts did not initiate 24 special investigations within 60 calendar days after the violation was discovered and cited.
• MSHA districts did not submit 37 cases to the agency's technical compliance and investigations office, or TICO, within 150 calendar days of the issuance date.
• TICO did not submit 29 cases to MSHA lawyers within 210 calendar days.
In a response, MSHA chief Joe Main said that the timelines cited by the inspector general "are general management goals -- not statutory or regulatory requirements."
"The primary causes for not meeting the timeframes for [special investigations] are the need to conduct thorough investigations and the need to prioritize inspections of all mines, discrimination investigations [which have statutory timeframes], accident investigations, internal reviews, and litigation support for contested citations," Main said in his response memo. "Balancing these demands and prioritizing special investigator work assignments impact the timeframes within which special investigations can be completed.
"MSHA believes the agency needs flexibility to redirect scarce SI resources, as necessary, to accomplish mandated activities," Main said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.