Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa today asked the federal agencies featured in a critical government audit to account for the hundreds of federal employees on paid leave for a year or more.
“Each agency handles administrative leave on its own terms in the absence of clear guidance that should apply to everyone,” Grassley said. “The result is employees’ getting paid to stay home, sometimes for more than a year, while management looks the other way. This is detrimental to taxpayers and good government. The agencies should account for each case of paid leave, especially those lasting more than a year. The explanations will help Congress arrive at solutions to stop abusively long leave.”
“Given the GAO’s report showing the incredible amount of money being spent on leave, Congress must know how it is possible that agencies’ current processes result in gross overuse of paid administrative leave, wasting taxpayer funds,” Issa said. “The GAO reported that the VA continued to pay nearly 6,000 workers for one to six months, with no obligation on these employees to work. The taxpayers have the right to know why their money was spent on paid administrative leave instead of caring for our nation’s veterans.”
Grassley and Issa wrote to 17 agencies and the inspector general for one agency featured in a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued this week at their request, along with Sen. Tom Coburn. The report documented paid leave for what appears to be the first time, finding that over a three-year period, data covering about 60 percent of all civilian federal employees found that more than 57,000 employees were on paid administrative leave for more than a month, costing $700 million in salary alone, excluding benefits. About 4,000 of the employees were off the job for three months to a year and 263 employees for one to three years. The most common reason cited for periods of extended administrative leave to GAO was “personnel matters” such as investigations into misconduct and “pending administrative actions.”
The Grassley-Issa letter to each agency is the same except for the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs received a special question since it had more employees on extended leave than any other agency on a per employee basis. And rather than write to the State Department directly, Grassley and Issa wrote to the agency inspector general and asked for an inquiry into why the State Department doesn’t provide the data to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) like the other agencies in the report and asked the inspector general to gather the data directly from the State Department since GAO couldn’t get the information through OPM.
The agency answers, along with the GAO report, will help inform what kind of legislation might be needed to limit administrative leave and hold agencies accountable for the decisions agencies have made to keep employees on leave for more than a year.
Grassley is working with Sen. Jon Tester on potential legislation that would force agencies to make a decision on whether an employee is a danger to fellow employees and must be removed from the workplace or whether that person can be reassigned while his case is resolved. The goal is to make sure federal employees are working for taxpayers and not lingering on paid leave at taxpayer expense, Grassley said.
Grassley is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. Issa is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Grassley and Issa wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services; the Social Security Administration; the Treasury Department; the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Small Business Administration; the Agency for International Development; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Department of the Interior; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of Energy; the Department of Defense; the Department of Commerce; the Department of Agriculture; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Office of Personnel Management; the Department of Transportation; and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Grassley-Issa letter to the State Department inspector general is available here.
The Grassley-Issa letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs is available here.
The remaining letters to each agency are the same with the exception of the number of employees on paid administrative leave for one year or more, as reported by the GAO. One of the letters is available here.
The GAO report is available here.