Federal Workforce Telework Rates and Policies Remain Largely a Mystery
WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and Oversight Committee Republicans sent letters to 25 federal agencies to conduct oversight over telework and remote work rates and policies. In the letter, the lawmakers request information on the level of telework and remote work currently taking place at the agencies and how its impact on performance and service delivery is being tracked.
“Hard-working Americans across this country show up to work every day and the federal government workforce their taxes fund must follow their lead. Even though the pandemic is over, the Biden Administration is allowing telework levels far above those that existed pre-pandemic. This is occurring in an apparently indiscriminate, unaccountable manner, without oversight from the White House or the Office of Personnel Management – whose Director could not tell members what portion of federal employees are teleworking when she appeared before the Committee in March. This is unacceptable and U.S. taxpayers deserve better. Federal workers must show up to work in-person and the Oversight Committee will hold agencies accountable when their employees do not show up to work for the American people,” said Chairman Comer.
The Biden Administration has allowed agencies to continue levels of telework and remote work that are significantly higher than before the pandemic. However, the Administration has not provided current data about the specific amount of telework occurring within federal agencies or across the entire federal workforce and has provided no objective evidence concerning the impact of elevated telework on agency performance.
“The COVID emergency is over – and most Americans have been back to work for many years. Taxpayers expect the same from public servants, but telework policies and outcomes are unclear across the federal government. These letters will provide necessary information to allow for increased oversight and transparency. We are taking deliberate steps to ensure taxpayers are receiving value from their government. I welcome federal agencies’ response and engagement in this process,” said Rep. Sessions.
The Office of Management and Budget recently issued guidance to agencies that seeks to improve organizational health and performance. While the guidance requires agencies to submit updated Work Environment Plans, agencies should have compiled relevant data based on previous guidance and existing statute. When the OPM director testified before the Committee in March, it became clear OPM is not adequately tracking the specific levels of telework occurring at federal agencies, let alone performance data that would justify telework rates that remain vastly above the pre-pandemic baseline.
Rep. Boebert stated, “While many hard-working Americans were working through the pandemic, federal bureaucrats were lounging at home and not even logging in to their computers. Shockingly, more than three years past the start of the pandemic, numerous public servants are still teleworking and only going in to the office one day per week, all at the expense of the American taxpayer. I have heard from countless constituents who did not get their tax returns back on time, who did not get their passports in a timely manner, and who did not get benefits from the VA because federal employees were teleworking. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee and I are demanding transparency from federal agencies on their secretive telework policies so that the American people know what exactly their tax dollars are funding and how their public servants are serving them.”
The 25 letters to federal agencies can be found here.