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.
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Filed Under: government employees, gsa, telecommuting

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2015 @ 9:19pm

    "The government is supposed to be a good steward of the public's money."

    Haha! Please, stop. Too funny...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 4 Feb 2015 @ 10:19pm

    Solution's simple: start with the OCPO and tell them that if the corrections outlined aren't at least well under way in 90 days they'll be found to be grossly negligent in the performance of their duties and will not be permitted to resign, they'll be fired for cause and forfeit all accrued benefits (ie. no pension, no severance, the most they'll get is their unused days off paid out). If they try to resign before then, their resignation won't be accepted. They can still leave, but it'll be considered abandonment of their job and it'll still cost them all accrued benefits.

    Talk is cheap. When people start getting fired (as opposed to being allowed to resign and moving on without any penalties) for failures like this you'll see the failures cleared up in a hurry.

    NB: I've seen equivalent situations in private business as well, where managers and executives constantly cost the company large sums of money on projects that weren't wanted by customers or who allowed employees to screw up and harm the business repeatedly without doing anything about them. I'd say that, as a portion of the total company, the problem's probably worse in private business than in government. So while this is definitely a problem for government agencies, it's not a problem of government agencies in particular.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lurker Keith, 5 Feb 2015 @ 12:24am


    I see the problem. They trusted an entity w/ OCP in their title to do accurate, honest record keeping. If Robocop taught us ANYTHING, it's that OCP is at best incompetent & at medium beyond corrupt. At worst, they're evil & out to dominate the world, after they succeed in destroying & replacing a large city.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 1:21am

    Where do I apply for those jobs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 5 Feb 2015 @ 5:36am


    If I am reading this right, virtual employees (what a name) get reimbursed for travel on days they come into the office? What about the 'real' employees who come in every day?


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:42am

    The Feral Government at work, what else could be expected?

    Since only the bottom of the barrel caliber worker would even look at the gov for a job, its surprised any of them even turn up.

    Idiocracy finely tuned by inbreed specialists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jim, 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:08am


    Now remember what the GSA is, and that they could cut the IG off easily. And the tea party win another round of making the government less responsive to the people that they are supposed to serve and protect. When you see the upcoming pothole, who are you going too call to fix it, will there be someone there to take the call, will there be someone there to fill the hole? Or will GM or FORD, at yellow freight come out? Or grandma is sick, from the food she ate, did our saviors the Chinese add melimine to the basic ingredients to aid our lives again, and make it protein rich baby formula again? Yeah, another cgovernment agency up for cuts again, like the IG, gsa, and the food safety divisions again. And deferring maintance on our infrastructure again, how many Americans can we kill with thout getting blamed again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 11:24am

    GSA = Gotta Sweet Arrangement

    Dang! There goes another sweet favor pay-off and family-member work-free employment scam, suckling the tax-payer's bucks.

    Gonna hafta do something real quick or all of the folks that were collecting favor debts by collecting a free weekly paycheck are gonna be miffed.

    And how the hell am I gonna keep Uncle Bernie out of jail if he doesn't have some good fake occupation to get him some regular cash for his hard-drug habits.

    Its getting so a career criminal cannot legally siphon off tax dollars for personal expenses through a government agency make-work scam anymore, without some do-gooding ass-hat coming in and looking through the fake records and messing the whole scam up.



    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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