The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

By Your Leave: Federal Employees on Administrative Leave Cost Taxpayers Billions

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


ICYMI, this American Public Media interview with the Washington Post reporter Lisa Rein is a quick primer on a very big problem.

In a nutshell, over a three-year period, 2011 to 2013, more than 57,000 federal employees hung out at home for a month or longer while cases of wrongdoing or malfeasance or whatever were "adjudicated."  At a cost that exceeded $775 million in salary alone.  And the Washington Post reporter tells us that this only represents the tip of the iceberg since the GAO reported that isn't able to gather numbers from most agencies.  Here is the GAO report, if you have a need, as I do, to torture yourself with the gory details.  Here is Lisa Rein's WaPo report.

Keep in mind a few things as you read that number.  It does not include their paid vacation time accruing, sick days accruing, etc.  Ms. Rein reports that "About 4,000 were idled for three months to a year and several hundred for one to three years."

And the WaPo story doesn't address the fact that that taxpayers also pay federal workers for what is called "official time."  That is time that federal workers spend doing solely union business on the taxpayers' time.

Here is a link to the Office of Personnel Management's page on official time with reports on the costs over a period of years.  The GAO reports that there are discrepancies on how agencies report official time, with some reporting it explicitly as official time and others reporting it as paid administrative leave, which fosters more confusion.  GAO also reminds us that "There is no general statutory authority for the use of paid administrative leave, which is an excused absence without loss of pay or charge to leave; however, [GAO], as well as OPM and others, have provided direction in the permissible use of administrative leave."

Some departments have large numbers of employees who are paid to do nothing but handle union business; at the Veteran's Administration alone, there are reportedly 258 full-time employees to handle just union work (grievances, etc.). The agency reported 998,483 hours of official time in 2011, up 23 percent from 2010, cost $42.5 million.  This, at a time when we now know that veterans were being kept waiting for months, even years, to be seen by the VA for medical issues.

Just do the math across the whole government.

NVM, I will help. In FY 2011 there were approximately 3.4 million official time hours at a cost to taxpayers, in work not performed for their agencies, of $155 million and it was an increase over the prior year.

The Office of Personnel Management used to report those numbers, but, guess what, crickets since the FY 2011 report, so official time numbers for FY 2012, 2013, are not available, in spite of attempts by members of Congress to obtain them.

FYI:  CAGW's Tom Schatz appeared on FOX News' Special Report with Brett Baier on the subject a few days ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkzHRxDeiU&list=UUGv3J9m6dJj-Zkzuu6zL8Tw

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