With Public Service Recognition Week only recently concluded, this week is shaping up as something of a Program Scandals Reaction Week.
The full House has scheduled a vote on a bill to make it easier for the Veterans Affairs Department to fire or demote senior executives on performance grounds, while the Senate committee that handles federal employment matters will consider several bills spurred by government management controversies.
The House bill originally was designed as a response to concerns about the quality of care and the backlog of veterans disability claims at the VA but gained new backing with the recent investigations into whether the department’s reporting practices hid delays in care. The House earlier voted, as part of a veterans benefits bill and more recently as an amendment to a broader spending bill, to disallow senior executive bonuses at VA for five years.
Also gaining new impetus after recent revelations — in this case, a report finding that the IRS had paid bonuses to some of its own employees with tax compliance problems — is a bill to require the firing of current federal employees who are seriously delinquent on their tax debt, as well as to bar such persons from being initially hired. That bill, up for a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, would apply to those who have had a tax lien placed against them, unless they are making required payments under a settlement or if they have requested relief as an innocent spouse.
The House last year passed a similar bill, although not by a wide enough margin under the special rules the House used to vote on measure.
Also before the Senate panel is a bill to overhaul overtime practices at Customs and Border Protection, following investigations into payment of “administratively uncontrollable” overtime, worth up to 25 percent of salary, as a routine practice even if the job apparently did not demand additional hours of work.
Under the bill, Border Patrol agents could annually choose to work 80, 90 or 100 hours per biweekly pay period as a regular schedule, with eligibility for overtime or compensatory time off for additional work varying with the option chosen.
A third measure before the panel would address procedures for granting and maintaining security clearances for both federal employees and contractor employees, a response to incidents that raised concerns about the quality of background checks and about the high number of clearance holders.
The measure would mandate new guidance on whether a position requires a security clearance, determinations that would have to be reexamined at least every five years. It also would require the firing of any employee whom the Office of Personnel Management determines was intentionally involved in misconduct affecting the integrity of a background investigation.