Fairness counts, especially when it comes to bonuses.

An inspector general review found that the Transportation Security Administration handed out bonuses last year to 76 percent of its executives but to only 3 percent of its rank-and-file employees. The TSA also gave time off from work as a reward to an additional 7 percent of the rank and file.

The inspector general's report called the pronounced tilt toward management "a substantial inequity" and recommended that the TSA "provide more equitable treatment for lower graded employees when making performance award decisions."

The report, issued this week by Clark Kent Erwin, inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, looked at the TSA's handling of its first annual awards program.

The report probably will reinforce the perception of many federal employees that the brass usually fare better than the workers when it's time to hand out monetary awards and perks.

The report noted that TSA executives came out ahead of their counterparts elsewhere in government. At the TSA, executive bonuses averaged $16,477, while executive bonuses elsewhere in the government averaged $12,444, according to the most recent data available. Government-wide, 49 percent of executives received bonuses, a significantly smaller percentage than at the TSA.

The TSA distributed $1.45 million in performance bonuses to 88 executives in fiscal 2003, the report said.

In addition, the inspector general found that the TSA "used identical, boilerplate language to justify awards for 38 percent of its executive awardees."

Instead of boilerplate justifications, the agency should have placed narratives in each personnel folder that showed how the executive "met two critical performance elements of program/mission objectives and executive/managerial competencies," the report said.

Most of the boilerplate justifications were for federal security directors or deputy federal security directors who oversee passenger and baggage screeners in airports, the report said.

TSA spokesman Mark O. Hatfield Jr. said the agency followed federal personnel policies on bonuses. "The awards reflect work for a two-year period, which includes the timeframe when the agency was stood up. Given the hours and productivity of the workforce during this critical period, TSA believes the award expenditures were fully justified," Hatfield said in a statement.

The inspector general's report includes an agency response in which the TSA acknowledged that "the program infrastructure during our first performance and award cycle was inadequate." The TSA said it would work in the next cycle "to provide equitable treatment for all TSA employees."

Tapping the G Fund

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow informed Congress yesterday that he would halt investments in the government securities fund of the Thrift Savings Plan to avoid busting through the $7.4 trillion national debt ceiling.

In his letter, Snow said he would make up any lost earnings or interest to the G Fund once Congress takes action in mid-November to let the government borrow more money. "G Fund beneficiaries are fully protected and will suffer no adverse consequences from this action," he wrote Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the Senate majority leader.

Snow resorted to a similar maneuver in February 2003 when the debt limit was reached. A subsequent audit by the General Accountability Office found that Snow acted legally and protected G Fund balances.

Talk Shows

Michael B. Styles, president of the Federal Managers Association, and Thomas Richards, FMA's governmental affairs representative, will be the guests on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.

Rebecca Spitzgo, program manager for Grants.gov, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Federal Workers: Bush or Kerry?" will be the topic of discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com