Telework Abuse Highlighted in Lankford’s 2017 Waste Report

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By on November 27, 2017 in Agency News with 0 Comments

Federal Fumbles 2017

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has followed his annual tradition of releasing a report which highlights examples of money not wisely spent within the federal government.

Known as Federal Fumbles Volume 3, this year’s report lists $473.6 billion in what Lankford says are examples of wasteful and inefficient government spending along with proposed solutions to each of them.

Telework Abuse at OWCP

One of the featured items in the report is the abuse of telework by some federal employees.

According to Lankford’s report, the ability to work from home is a benefit that has the potential to save as much as $700 billion per year, however, that assumes that no employee productivity is sacrificed in the process.

It cites data from the Government Accountability Office which notes that 427,000 federal employees participated in telework programs in 2015. The report suggests that given the magnitude of employees working from home, it is a program ripe for abuse and cites an example in which a senior executive from the Labor Department’s (DOL) Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) reported that employees frequently abuse the department’s telework policy by over-reporting their telework hours. According to the Office of Personnel Management, 60% of OWCP’s 1,549 employees reported working from home in 2014.

A GAO report from February 2017 found that DOL refused to accept GAO’s recommendation to better oversee and document employee telework agreements to ensure that such agreements accurately reflect telework participation.

Lankford’s report then noted, “OWCP’s primary job is to efficiently process federal employee worker compensation claims. With so many OWCP employees likely abusing DOL’s telework program, it is no surprise that federal employees complain of severe backlogs regarding workers’ compensation claims.”

It suggested that DOL could make a good start in fixing telework abuse by simply following GAO’s recommendations on properly documenting and reviewing employee telework agreements. It also says that Congress should revise DOL’s telework program to ensure it is contributing to the agency’s mission of efficiently processing workers’ compensation claims.

IRS Makes the List

Some other examples from the 2017 edition of Federal Fumbles featured the IRS.

The Software That Wasn’t

In 2014, the IRS spent $12 million on cloud-based email software to replace the agency’s existing email software. However, apparently nobody bothered to check to make sure it would be compatible with the agency’s systems and meet the agency’s overall needs. Despite the hefty cost, it was never even implemented due to being completely unusable, so the existing email software remained in place.

Rehiring Previously Fired Employees

Another one of Lankford’s examples focused on a 2014 Treasury Inspector General report which found that from 2010 to 2013, the IRS hired 824 employees who had previously been terminated due to “prior conduct or performances issues.” One employee was even rehired even though his employee file had “DO NOT REHIRE” stamped on it.

A follow up 2017 IG report found that over 200 employees were rehired between January 2015 and March 2016 under similar circumstances. Some had been terminated for not filing tax returns or improperly accessing taxpayer records.

These reports caught the attention of Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) who introduced legislation earlier this year to prevent the IRS from rehiring employees that it has fired in the past.

The full report (below) contains 100 examples total.

Federal Fumbles 2017

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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