A recent report that catalogues examples of wasteful government spending addresses some matters related to the federal workforce. Among them are step increases in the General Schedule and the Special Retirement Supplement.
The report is Federal Fumbles Volume 4, an annual report released by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) that highlights what he believes to be waste and inefficiency in the federal government and gives suggested solutions to each of those issues.
“I view Federal Fumbles as my to-do list for the upcoming year, and my office works to address as many of the entries from previous Fumblesvolumes as possible to help actually solve the waste and inefficiency, not just talk about it,” said Lankford. “This year’s volume focuses heavily on government inefficiency and wastes of time as well as federal tax dollars. The federal government should work for the taxpayers and spend your tax dollars wisely.”
These are some of the items from the report of most relevance to federal employees.
Special Retirement Supplement
This year’s report takes aim at the SRS, a benefit offered under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) which is an additional annuity payment paid to federal retirees who qualify until age 62. It approximates the Social Security benefit earned while retirees were employed by the Federal government.
The report says that the SRS will cost the government $18.7 billion over the next 10 years. “Given that our national debt is more than $22 trillion it is time to bench this supplement by eliminating it for all new hires and slowly phase the perk out. We have terrific federal employees serving all over the nation, but we also have a rising federal debt we must resolve,” says the report.
Another benefit for federal employees under the General Schedule pay system addressed by the report is automatic step increases.
“Essentially every federal employee receives a pay increase at the end of every year when eligible. It is hard to imagine any company having 99 percent of its employees earning a raise,” reads the report.
Here’s the fine print: for the most part, the federal employee wage scale is determined by something called the General Schedule (GS) grade, which provides periodic increases in a federal employee’s basic pay from one step to the next. Employees earn these increases after meeting several requirements, including having an acceptable level of competence and waiting the required period of time determined by law. According to a GAO report, 99 percent of non-management positions above the GS-15 level (a salary range between $105,123 and $136,659) that are not management positions were eligible for a pay increase.
The report goes on to say that the solution to this situation is to make step increases merit based:
Step increases should be merit-based and performance-focused with less emphasis on waiting periods. In the private sector, most pay raises and promotions are awarded based on productivity and performance. Focusing higher income step increases on merit as opposed to simply running out the clock will increase incentives for stronger performance and boost workplace morale among employees.
Paid Administrative Leave
One other item related to federal employment addressed in the report is paid administrative leave. OPM defines this as “an administratively authorized absence from duty without loss of pay or charge to leave,” and the report says that this amounts to paying federal employees not to work.
The Federal Fumbles report cites a GAO report which said that there were instances of some federal employees being on paid administrative leave for years while an investigation took place. In one case cited, an Inspector General was on paid leave for two years collecting his annual salary of $186,000 while he was investigated for misconduct.
The report said that both Congress and federal agency managers need to take action to prevent these kinds of scenarios:
…paid administrative leave should not be used as along-term mechanism for agencies that are either reluctant to take timely investigative steps or unwilling to engage in adverse action toward an employee for poor performance or serious misconduct. Congress should find a legislative solution for improving this system with mechanisms that will prevent long-term administrative leave and ensure the integrity of the system. Managers need to manage, not just ignore problem cases on administrative leave.
Federal Fumbles 2019, vol 4 by FedSmith Inc. on Scribd