FSIS Administrator To Supervisors: Quit Making Excuses

By on November 11, 2003 in Current Events with 0 Comments

Garry McKee is upset and isn’t going to take it anymore.

It is unusual for a senior administrator to publicly criticize his agency’s workforce or supervisors. If it does happen, it isn’t common for an agency to post the comments on its own website. So, when we saw a speech from the administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service blasting food inspectors for making excuses for not doing a good job, we were surprised.

It is fair to say that Garry McKee, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, isn’t happy with the performance of the food inspection supervisors in the Department of Agriculture.

In a speech he gave in Nashville, he blasted the performance of inspectors and to quit making excuses for not going their job. No doubt, senior managers in other agencies have thought the same thing but haven’t said it publicly. Here is a short list of excuses he doesn’t want to hear anymore:

“We don’t have the time;”

“I didn’t know the regulation;”

“My supervisor wouldn’t let me;”

“Washington wouldn’t let me.”

Here are a few quotes from his speech.

“I am tired of reading articles quoting our inspectors as saying we don’t have the authority to take action against a plant…. Everyone in this room knows we have the authority, as well as the responsibility, to take action against violators and it is imperative that the entire workforce knows it as well.”

“If inspectors are not familiar with the core rules and regulations under which we operate then you have a number of choices: you can replace them; reassign them; or retrain them. Doing nothing is not one of your options.”

“Too much is falling through the cracks. Things must change in the field as we can not go on like this indefinitely.”

“Once and for all, we must bury this notion that we do not have enough authority or we are not accountable for public health. Those who do not believe this, or do not act on our given authority, will be held accountable from here on out. There is no excuse to allow plants to continue operating when problems abound.”

Admittedly, most people would be upset over some of the examples given by McKee.

In one instance, as many as 1,600 hogs died over the course of several days as they awaited slaughter. Only after several days did the USDA inspector shut down the plant. He told the supervisors to use common sense. “…[“W]hen animals are dying in large numbers in transporters awaiting slaughter — day after day — …[is it likely] there may be something inhumane about these losses and it is our responsibility to intervene?”

Direct criticism in a bureaucratic organization is unusual. Consumers around the country certainly hope the approach works in keeping our food source safe and secure.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters onĀ federal human resources.