The story was updated at 2 p.m. June 4 to include comments from GSA.
An ongoing congressional investigation reveals $1.1 million in bonuses were awarded to 84 employees of the General Services Administration since 2008 — while the inspector general was probing these individuals for wrongdoing or misconduct.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is heading the investigation, said the overall number of employees receiving bonuses while under investigation is likely to be “far higher” since not all information for current investigations is now available, according to a release from the senator.
Of the 84 GSA employees, each received an average of eight bonuses, totaling $13,000. (See breakdown of bonus awards.) One program officer received more than $38,000 in bonuses since 2008, despite being reassigned for abuse of authority. Another employee, a GS-14 level supervisor, received more than $20,000 in bonuses, even after being reprimanded for interfering with an IG investigation, according to the release.
“It doesn’t pass the smell test to be awarding huge bonuses in taxpayer dollars to officials who are being investigated, or have already been found responsible, for fraud and waste of those very taxpayer dollars. That’s why I’m not letting up on our fight for accountability in government,” McCaskill said in the release. McCaskill is the chairman of the subcommittee on contracting oversight in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The GSA has no policies to freeze bonuses to employees under investigation by the IG, according to the release.
A GSA spokesman said the agency is conducting a “top-down review” of its operations.
“This comprehensive review of our agency operations includes all bonus payouts in recent years — especially for those individuals under investigation by GSA’s Inspector General,” said Adam Elkington, GSA spokesman, in an email to Federal News Radio.
In most cases, the IG’s office does not alert GSA about employees under investigation because the individuals are presumed not guilty until the investigation is complete.
The scrutiny of GSA came most heavily starting in April after an investigation by the IG revealed the agency spent more than $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference in 2010. Among the employees investigated was Public Buildings Service Region 9 Commission Jeff Neely, who received a $9,000 bonus despite being under investigation.
In a letter to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, McCaskill asked for information from 2008 to 2011 on bonuses awarded to all federal agencies, “including what actions OPM could take to ensure that bonuses that would otherwise be awarded to federal employees under investigation by the Inspector General are withheld pending the resolution of the investigation.”
McCaskill gave OPM a deadline of June 20 for the federal employee bonus information.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 8-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.