Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip, criticized the Bush administration yesterday for not providing him with up-to-date information on cash bonuses given to political appointees.
The White House decision to revive bonuses for political appointees drew sharp criticism last month from Democrats, unions and some policy experts who called it a slight to rank-and-file federal workers. The bonus decision, made in March 2002, was disclosed in early December, days after President Bush announced his plan to give federal employees a 3.1 percent pay raise this year -- a percentage point less than Congress appeared on track to provide.
Hoyer quickly asked the Office of Personnel Management to provide him with information on the number of political appointees, their average salaries and the size of cash awards. Yesterday, he said the OPM reply covered only the first six months of 2002.
"Clearly, most people give bonuses at the end of the year and not in the middle of the year," Hoyer said. "I'm a little perplexed they haven't provided me with the information . . . through the end of the fiscal year or through December 31."
The information should be easily obtainable, Hoyer suggested, because "it is my understanding" that agencies give notice to the administration every two weeks on who receives bonuses and cash awards.
Asked about Hoyer's comments, an OPM official said, "We have every intention of giving him the whole story." The official said awards data submitted by agencies to a central database remain incomplete for the third and fourth quarters. "We're not dragging our feet. We would like it to be publishable as soon as it can."
Because it takes time for agencies to provide data, a complete tally of bonuses may not be available for a few more months, the official said.
Hoyer said the way the White House has handled bonus and pay decisions "has got to give the impression to federal employees that if you are a political appointee, you are going to get bonuses; but if you are a regular career employee, the president is not going to give you the same consideration that Congress has given you."
Congress, however, never got its proposal for a 4.1 percent civil service raise, similar to that provided the military, on the president's desk. The federal employee raise, included in a fiscal 2003 appropriations bill, stalled when Congress and the White House could not resolve differences over spending priorities last year.
Much of the government is operating on an interim spending bill that expires Jan. 31. By that time, lawmakers hope to reach an accord on spending for this fiscal year.
The OPM official pointed out that bonuses go to career employees as well as political appointees. "What the president wants is a performance culture where good contributions are recognized," the official said.
Documents provided to Hoyer's office by OPM, covering the first six months of 2002, show that several agencies paid bonuses -- what the administration calls "cash awards" -- to 101 out of about 2,000 political appointees. The bonuses ranged from a few hundred dollars to $8,000.
The Education Department, for example, paid $106,500 in bonuses to 24 appointees, the OPM data show.
The data sent Hoyer also suggested that many political appointees are being paid salaries near the top of the General Schedule, the pay table for most federal employees.
For example, the data show that 138 appointees, who are Schedule C employees because they hold policy or confidential positions, were paid an average of $93,872. At the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 Schedule C appointees averaged $88,112 in salary. At the Interior Department, 32 Schedule C appointees were paid an average of $83,790, according to the OPM data.
Most Cabinet departments appeared to be paying their Schedule C appointees in the $70,000 to $80,000 range. The OPM data showed that political appointees given senior executive positions were paid in the $130,000 range, about the same as career executives.
Retirements Paul E. Bennett, director of management for Social Security's office of hearings and appeals, retired Jan. 3 after more than 35 years of federal service.
James A. Donaldson, a budget analyst for the Navy, retired Jan. 3 after 32 years of government service, including Vietnam combat service.
Stephen Barr's e-mail address is email@example.com.