House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) fired off numerous letters late last week to various federal leaders demanding data on federal employees’ use of official time.
The letters were sent on Friday, February 12 requesting data such as names, salaries and whether or not the employees engaged in official time activity. Agencies have until February 26 to provide the data to the Committee.
The letters were sent to various agency heads and government leaders such as Office of Personnel Management acting director Beth Cobert, Department of Agriculture secretary Thomas Vilsack, and VA secretary Robert McDonald, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
A copy of one of the letters is included below.
Official time is a costly item for federal agencies and taxpayers, however, it is often difficult to track. In FY 2012, for example, OPM reported that federal employees spent 3,439,499 hours on official time at a cost of $157,196,468. However, the Government Accountability Office later issued a report which said that nobody really knows if these figures were accurate and in fact may have been much higher than OPM reported. (See How Much Official Time Used by Federal Unions? No One Really Knows)
Reports such as these have attracted attention from Congress. Consequently, lawmakers such as Chaffetz are asking more questions.
Several bills have also been introduced recently to weaken the power of federal employee unions. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), for instance, recently introduced the Federal Employee Rights Act which would make a number of changes to weaken unions. And last fall, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced legislation that would end mandatory labor unions at the Internal Revenue Service.