Tags: Federal workers | taxpayers | paid vacation

WashPost: Federal Workers' Paid Leave Costs Taxpayers $775M

By    |   Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 09:27 AM

Over a three-year period ending last fall, taxpayers paid close to a billion dollars for federal workers sent home on paid leave while being investigated for misbehavior, according to The Washington Post, which cites a Government Accountability Office report recently made public.

Various government agencies sent home more than 57,000 civilian employees for a month or longer, totaling $775 million spent on salaries, while those same employees continued to accrue their pensions, vacation and sick days and "moved up the federal pay scale."

The GAO report noted that 53,000 of the 57,000 were sidelined for one to three months during the three fiscal years that ended in September 2013. The remaining 4,000 workers were ordered to stay home for three months to a year, and several hundred for one to three years, according to the Post.

The reasons given for putting the employees on leave ranged from "alleged violations of government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trustworthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses."

In May, Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, penned a letter to then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asking for details on the number of VA's employees on administrative leave over the veterans' treatment scandal, as well as the VA's policies on the length of paid administrative leave. He pointed out that at least 40 veterans died while awaiting care at VA facilities while employees "cooked the books" to make it appear as though vets received timely medical care.

"The government is notoriously slow in resolving investigative matters," Grassley said. "That means a number of Veterans Affairs employees could end up on paid leave for an extended period of time. It would add insult to injury for any wronged veterans to give employees who might have cooked the books at the VA extended paid vacations while the government sorts out the mess. Leave policies should make sense and not be abused during prolonged internal investigations."

Grassley, and fellow Republicans Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Rep. Darrell Issa of California requested the GAO report. Grassley and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana are working on drafting legislation to narrowly define paid leave, limiting it to a matter of days, congressional aides told the Post.

While the Office of Personnel Management does allow for authorized paid leave for certain things such as donating an organ, house-hunting before a job transfer, attending the funeral of a relative in the military or snow days, according to the Post, those things typically require just hours or days, "not the months and years that the GAO discovered are common at more than 100 federal agencies," the Post reports.

While OPM regulations — revamped in 1980 to "curb waste and fraud and make agencies more accountable to taxpayers" — call for employees facing potential disciplinary action to remain in the job except in rare circumstances, "when he or she poses a threat to himself or others, is at risk of stealing government property or jeopardizes legitimate government interests."

OPM Deputy Associate Director for Pay and Leave Brenda Roberts told the Post that no law exists specifically addressing administrative leave. Instead, agencies use "their own discretion."

A retired federal personnel manager told the newspaper that the issue must be addressed.
"Unless you think somebody is going to get a gun and shoot people, then send them to work," said Jeffrey Neal, who retired from his position as the DHS human capital chief in 2011. "If they're sitting there, you're going to be reminded, 'We have to do something about Betty Lou.'"

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Over a three-year period ending last fall, taxpayers paid close to a billion dollars for federal workers sent home on paid leave while being investigated for misbehavior, according to the Washington Post, which cites a Government Accountability Office report recently made public.
Federal workers, taxpayers, paid vacation
587
2014-27-21
Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 09:27 AM
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