The Dog Whisperer could probably teach the federal General Services Administration something about how to discourage bad behavior. Top of the list: Don’t reward it.
Translated into manager-speak: Don’t give bonuses to people being investigated for misconduct.
But that’s just what happened at the GSA, the agency that oversees the business of the federal government. It gave more than $1 million in bonuses over the last four years to at least 84 employees who were under investigation at the time for misconduct.
For instance, a supervisor got $20,000 in bonuses even as he was being reprimanded for obstructing an inspector general inquiry. Another employee, who had been reassigned for abuse of authority, still received annual bonuses of nearly $8,000 for five years.
Apparently the GSA – and who knows which other government agencies – has no policy against giving bonuses to employees under investigation. That’s something that must change. Withholding bonuses – which supposedly reward superior performance – until employees are cleared of wrongdoing is a no-brainer.
The suspect bonuses came to light as part of a “top-to-bottom review” of GSA after revelations of a lavish 2009 Las Vegas conference that cost nearly $1 million. That paid for such frivolities as a $75,000 team-building exercise in assembling bicycles, $3,200 for sessions with a “mind reader” and $6,325 for commemorative coins in velvet boxes for all participants; $100,405 was spent for travel costs that included planning meetings, scouting trips and a “dry run.”
The review also found that 95 GSA employees who worked from home were reimbursed $750,000 for travel expenses over a nine-month period. And in 2010 the agency treated about 120 of its interns to a five-day “thank you” conference at a resort in Palm Springs, Calif. One might think that getting a government job in this economy was thanks enough.
The free spending and undeserved bonuses reflect a mentality that is out of touch with what is happening to the everyday Americans who foot the bills. The administration and Congress must make it clear to government agencies that such abuse will be penalized, not rewarded. They should be stewards, not spendthrifts, when it comes to taxpayer money.