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Entitled to Waste: Mo’ Better Bonuses at the GSA

Wednesday June 27th, 2012   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 4:47pm PDT   •  

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) administrator Daniel M. Tangherlini, “serves a vital role in President Obama’s agenda to build a more sustainable, responsible and effective government for the American people.” He has his work cut out for him.

Federal workers are paid about twice as much as workers in the private sector, but at the GSA, budget about $20 billion, the pay is never quite enough. Since 2008 the GSA has handed out more than $1 million in bonuses not to top performers, but dozens of employees under investigation for misconduct. One employee received bonuses of nearly $76,000 over five years but his was not the worst case.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates waste and fraud in government. One GSA supervisor obstructed an OIG investigation, which drew a reprimand. But the same GSA boss also got a bonus of more than $20,000 after he had interfered with the government auditor. Another boss who had abused his authority and been reassigned got a bonus of $8,000 for five consecutive years. GSA bosses also spent nearly $1 million on a Las Vegas bash that was supposedly a “conference.”

In response legislators predictably decried a “culture of entitlement” that rewarded “bad judgment.” To the surprise of nobody, GSA bosses said they would get to the bottom of the bogus bonuses. How much success they will have remains uncertain but it is possible to guess.

The GSA bonus scandal came during a time of recession, a weak economy, high unemployment, and massive deficits. In those conditions, one would think, all bonuses would be curtailed and perhaps pay cuts imposed. But at the federal GSA, harsh economic realities proved no barrier to fat bonuses for some of the worst employees. And don’t forget the pushback.

In a very thorough Federal Times video on the scandal, an attorney who represents senior government workers laments that some of the bonuses were “quite low” and “should be higher.”

Taxpayers rest easy. With the federal government, where waste is institutionalized, there is no problem that more money can’t cure.

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June 2012