Your Tax Dollars At ??: Government Agency Has No Idea How Many Of Its Employees Are Telecommuting
from the government-cannot-be-trusted-to-deploy-an-'honor-system' dept
It’s 9 AM: do you know where your employees are? The GSA (Government Services Administration) doesn’t. It thinks some are working from home, but can’t really say for sure. It knows it has employees but it doesn’t know who’s at the office and who’s telecommuting. Here are the findings from the Inspector General’s report:
Finding 1 – GSA does not know the number of virtual employees it has, and some virtual employee work arrangements were not fully approved.
Finding 2 – Travel costs related to virtual work arrangements were not assessed annually.
Finding 3 – Official duty stations were incorrect for some virtual employees.
Finding 4 – Virtual employee hours were not accurately reported.
Finding 5 – GSA needs to improve controls over transit subsidies.
Finding 6 – Many GSA teleworkers have not taken the required training.
The Government Accountability Office found that nearly everything about the GSA’s teleworker tracking was faulty.
GSA policy (CPO IL-12-04) requires that the Office of the Chief People Officer (OCPO) maintain the master tracking of all GSA virtual employees and that all virtual work arrangements be reviewed annually. The OCPO maintains a list of virtual and satellite employees and whether they have approved work arrangements. At the time of our review, the list contained 454 names; however, the OCPO did not know whether the employees were virtual or satellite. In addition, the OCPO was uncertain of the accuracy of the list because it was based a manual data call.
For most entities, teleworkers represent a cost savings. Not so with the GSA.
Virtual employees incur reimbursable travel from their duty station to the Agency worksite to effectively perform their official duties and meet mission requirements. We reviewed fiscal years (FYs) 2012 and 2013 travel costs for the 57 employees who had submitted a GSA Form 3703. For 29 of the 57 virtual employees, actual travel costs to the Agency worksite exceeded the cost estimates reflected on the forms. For 13 employees, the actual costs were more than double the estimate.
In addition, the GAO found that the GSA’s virtual workers were assigned to incorrect job stations or clocking in under the wrong job code — a problem made worse by the agency’s lack of a unique identifier for teleworkers.
The GSA, in response, has promised a full “policy update” and a very belated addition of a unique teleworker job code. Of course, this comes after years of hands-off management, and the very bureaucratic promise of an updated policy is still at least 90 days down the road.
The government — like any other employer — needs to keep close tabs on teleworkers. But especially the government. Who knows how many GSA employees are “working” from home like this infamous EPA employee?
[An] EPA manager […] allowed an employee to stay at home and not report for duty for several years… [T]his EPA manager not only entered fraudulent time-and-attendance records for the absent employee but also approved the same fraudulent records. It is estimated that the manager’s approval of fraudulent time-and-attendance records cost the government more than $500,000…
A half-million and 20 years “on the job” and nothing to show for it. Supervisors said this mostly-faux employee had “little work” to show for his years of service, but despite this, they still managed to give him “exemplary reviews” and pay raises. Of course, The Employee Who Wasn’t There had an excuse for his nonperformance and $180,000 in travel reimbursements: he was in the CIA. No further questions were asked.
The government is supposed to be a good steward of the public’s money. The GSA’s inability (which borders on unwillingness) to properly track its telecommuting workers is the complete opposite of this ideal. In the GSA’s inept hands, a money-saving option has led to excessive travel reimbursements and incorrect paychecks. The GAO’s report points out the problems, but it’s up to the GSA to fix them. As we’ve seen far too often, Inspector General reports routinely border on “scathing,” but when the next inspection rolls around, the problems still exist. So, the GSA may be taking (tentative and bureaucratic) steps towards fixing this issue, but the smart money is on little-to-no change resulting from this report.