Is time and attendance abuse a problem in federal agencies? A group of lawmakers are concerned that it might be and have asked the Government Accountability Office to take a fresh look at time and attendance problems and the corresponding challenges faced in federal agencies.
GAO last issued a report in 2003 on time and attendance as noted in the letter. The lawmakers specifically asked GAO to update this old report and in doing so “discuss challenges agencies face in assuring time and attendance transactions are authorized and recorded in a proper and prompt manner, specific tools agencies use to identify time and attendance abuse, and corrective measures agencies can use to address time and attendance abuse.”
Problems at the Patent and Trademark Office
In making their request, they highlighted problems that have arisen since GAO’s last report was issued. Specifically, a 2016 report from the Department of Commerce Inspector General found 288,479 unsupported hours among patent examiners at the Patent and Trademark Office during a 15 month period, equivalent to $18.3 million in potential waste.
In that report, the IG said the problems might have been even more widespread. It stated, “Based on certain examiner records, however, the OIG found that the total unsupported hours over the 9- and 15-month periods could be twice as high as reported in this investigation.”
Furthermore, the IG report said that PTO policies are limiting the agency’s ability to root out time and attendance problems. For example, PTO does not require teleworkers to log in to their computers on workdays if they do not telework full-time, and despite the fact that the majority of patent examiners with unsupported hours received average or better performance ratings, the agency requires that only poor performers provide their supervisors with work schedules.
“Given the fast paced and ever-evolving change in technology and the increasing use of telework by federal agencies, we believe the federal government would benefit from an update to the report,” wrote the lawmakers.
A copy of the letter is included below.