FDA Boosts Bonuses Despite Ongoing Criticism From Hill

Bloomberg News
Friday, June 27, 2008

The Food and Drug Administration increased bonuses to its employees by 29 percent in the past year, despite earlier objections from lawmakers.

The FDA paid $35 million in staff incentives for the year ending April 12, up from $27.1 million a year earlier, according to records posted on the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Web site.

Lawmakers complained last year that the FDA was issuing too many bonuses, especially to high-ranking officials. The increase shown in the latest records, provided by the FDA, prompted objections by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the panel's investigative subcommittee.

"It is outrageous that bonuses for top officials at FDA increased by nearly 30 percent over the past year despite the agency's poor management," Stupak said in an e-mailed statement. "These bonuses are not going to the men and women in the field who FDA struggles to retain. They're going to top agency officials in Washington who have presided over the agency while an unprecedented number of Americans have been sickened by contaminated food and drugs."

Stupak and other lawmakers faulted the FDA's handling of food and drug safety after consumers became ill from tainted spinach in 2006, peanut butter in 2007 and the blood thinner heparin this year.

The bonus payments help attract and retain employees, Heidi Rebello, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

"The agency employs a very knowledgeable, experienced and highly educated staff and has to compete with the private sector to attract individuals of the highest caliber to meet the growing demands on its scientific and regulatory mission both here and abroad," she said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company