Sen. Coburn’s Wastebook Highlights Mismanagement of Federal Employees

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released on October 22, 2014, his annual Wastebook that exposes how the federal government fritters away your tax dollars.

A disturbing theme found in the report is that many federal employees receive full pay and benefits to either not perform government work or for activity totally unrelated to what they were hired to do.

For example, the federal government has policy similar to “rubber rooms,” or reassignment centers where public school teachers accused of misconduct receive full pay to do nothing while waiting for their disciplinary hearing.

However, the federal government does not even require disciplined employees to show up anywhere. The practice at the federal level is called “administrative leave.” As explained in the Wastebook, “rather than disciplining employees who are underperforming or even engaging in criminal mischief,” they are placed on administrative leave, stay at home, and continue to get their regular salary and benefits.

In 2014, Sen. Coburn uncovers that at least $50 million is spent on paying federal employees on administrative leave at just 11 agencies, a third of the employees were on leave for disciplinary reasons.

In addition, The Washington Post cited a Government Accountability Office report, released on October 17, 2014, that found:

During a three-year period that ended last fall, more than 57,000 employees were sent home for a month or longer. The tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also targeted for its wasteful spending. While the agency’s mission is to safeguard U.S. maritime interests and enforce maritime law, Sen. Coburn’s report notes that the Coast Guard assigns staff to provide security at exclusive events, like yacht parties. In the New York area alone, the estimated cost of using Coast Guard personnel to keep unwanted visitors out of elite private parties is more than $100,000 annually.

At the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, employees cleared to work received nearly $1 million in workers compensation payments. For example, “one federal worker received $43,225 in taxpayer funds without a single medical document justifying the workers compensation pay.”

Another government handout, which is not included in this year’s Wastebook but appeared in last year’s edition, is union official time where federal employees are paid to perform union business on the taxpayer dime. In 2012, the latest year data is available, federal employees spent 3.4 million hours on official time at a cost of $157 million.

The fault with this mismanagement of our hard-earned tax dollars is that none of it went to a truly public purpose. If those misspending our money worked for a private sector company they would be fired. It is time to impose responsibility and accountability on those who misspend our money and the threat of firing would make Congress and bureaucrats think twice about authorizing such waste.