A House committee chairman has asked the Obama administration to document whether federal agencies are paying awards only to their well-performing employees and whether consequences flow from poor performance.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said his Oversight and Government Reform Committee is trying to “better understand the state of the federal workforce” and “ensure that federal employees are properly compensated based on their work and performance.”
His request, in a letter Monday to the Office of Personnel Management, asks for data covering the last five years, since a similar request from Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), at that time the ranking committee Republican who later took over as chairman.
The request seeks information on how many and what percentage of employees receive awards or bonuses each year and how many and what percentage receive so-called within-grade increases—raises worth about 3 percent that are paid at given intervals, up to a limit, for employees performing above the unacceptable level. It also asks the same for special within-grade raises given for especially good performance.
On the other side, it seeks information on employees who had increases denied for performance or misconduct; those who received such increases despite having low ratings; those demoted or fired for performance or conduct reasons, both during and after the one-year probationary period; and whether low-rated employees were transferred to another position.
It also seeks performance, awards and disciplinary data specific to senior executives, as well as an accounting of employees who earn above $150,000 or $100,000 and the average compensation for federal employees, including benefits such as health insurance and retirement.
Whether federal employees are held accountable for poor performance or misconduct—or rewarded adequately for especially good performance—has been a long-running issue, as has how federal pay and benefits stack up against those of the private sector.
Chaffetz requested the information as part of the committee’s general oversight of the federal workforce and does not have specific plans to use it for hearings or legislation, a spokeswoman said. However, she noted that Chaffetz has expressed concern about awards being paid to employees who perform poorly or commit misconduct.
An OPM spokesman said the agency “is working to respond to the chairman’s letter.”
OPM posts certain statistical reports on the federal workforce on its website, www.opm.gov, although those do not cover all the topics Chaffetz requested and some are several years out of date.
Chaffetz and several other Republican members of the panel also recently sent letters to two dozen agencies asking for an accounting of another long-running issue, the use of “official time”–working hours that some federal employees use on certain union-related duties. Those agencies were asked for data on the number of hours used, the number of employees involved, how many of them spend all of their working hours on official time, and the value of office space agencies provide to employee unions.
The allowable uses of official time are spelled out in federal labor law, but the amounts typically are set in contracts between agencies and unions representing their employees. Unions consider the time a trade-off for their obligation to represent all bargaining unit members regardless of whether they pay dues.