Undead Bureaucracy: Federal Government Executive Salary and Benefit Zombies

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Tens of Thousands of Federal Workers on Extended Paid Leave

For The Washington PostLisa Rein reports: Tens of thousands of federal workers are being kept on paid leave for at least a month — and often for longer stretches that can reach a year or more — while they wait to be punished for misbehavior or cleared and allowed to return to work, government records show.

“It’s not authorized by any law. Bureaucrats are abusing it.”

— Sen. Charles E. Grassley

During a three-year period that ended last fall, more than 57,000 employees were sent home for a month or longer. The tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone.

“OPM has turned a blind eye to this, and it’s shameful. There’s no sense of urgency.”

— Debra Roth, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association

The extensive use of administrative leave continues despite government personnel rules that limit paid leave for employees facing discipline to “rare circumstances” in which the employee is considered a threat. The long-standing rules were written in an effort to curb waste and deal quickly with workers accused of misconduct.

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While the employees stayed home, they not only collected paychecks but also built their pensions, vacation and sick days and moved up the federal pay scale.

And the comptroller general, the top federal official responsible for auditing government finances and practices, has repeatedly ruled that federal workers should not be sidelined for long periods for any reason.APPROVED-non-stop-panic

“Six months went by, and we didn’t hear anything. You’re so anxious. You don’t know if you’ve got a job. You’re getting paid, but it’s no vacation.”

— Scott Balovich, who was put on administrative leave from his IT systems job at the NOAA in Alaska

But a report by the Government Accountability Office, first made public by The Washington Post on its Web site Monday, found that 53,000 civilian employees were kept home for one to three months during the three fiscal years that ended in September 2013. About 4,000 were idled for three months to a year and several hundred for one to three years. This is the first time the government has calculated the scope and cost of administrative leave.

Man Relaxing in Hammock with Beer, Sunset

Auditors found that supervisors used wide discretion in putting employees on leave, including for alleged violations of ­government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trust­worthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses. Some employees remain on paid leave while they challenge demotions and other punishments.

“The Office of Personnel Management rule book lists dozens of reasons for allowing paid leave, such as donating an organ, house-hunting before a job transfer and attending the funeral of a relative in the military. Snow days also are permitted.”

While the employees stayed home, they not only collected paychecks but also built their pensions, vacation and sick days and moved up the federal pay scale.

“Six months went by, and we didn’t hear anything,” said Scott Balovich, who was put on administrative leave from his IT systems job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Alaska. “You’re so anxious. You don’t know if you’ve got a job. You’re getting paid, but it’s no vacation.”

Balovich, who makes $108,000 a year, was paid not to work while investigators examined how pornographic images had gotten onto his computer hard drive. He ultimately was cleared of any personal involvement and returned to his job last week. His attorney, Debra D’Agostino, a founder of the Federal Practice Group, said he “got stuck in the inertia of bureaucracy.”

The GAO report almost certainly understates the extent and cost of administrative leave because the figures examined by the auditors were incomplete. The numbers reviewed account for only about three-fifths of the federal workforce since not all government agencies keep track of the practice.

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The Office of Personnel Management rule book lists dozens of reasons for allowing paid leave, such as donating an organ, house-hunting before a job transfer and attending the funeral of a relative in the military. Snow days also are permitted.

But these require only a few hours or days — not the months and years that the GAO discovered are common at more than 100 federal agencies…(read more)

The Washington Post


One Comment on “Undead Bureaucracy: Federal Government Executive Salary and Benefit Zombies”

  1. […] The Butcher Tens of Thousands of Federal Workers on Extended Paid Leave For The Washington Post, Lisa Rein […]


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