Good News: Tens of Thousands of Federal Workers Are Being Paid to Sit at Home

Posted: Oct 20, 2014 5:05 PM

Just a friendly reminder about the state of our 'not-a-cent-to-spare' federal government, via the Washington Post:

Tens of thousands of federal workers are being kept on paid leave for at least a month — and often for longer stretches that can reach a year or more — while they wait to be punished for misbehavior or cleared and allowed to return to work, government records show. 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 extensive use of so-called administrative leave continues despite government personnel rules that limit paid leave for employees facing discipline to “rare circumstances” in which the employee is considered a threat. The long-standing rules were written in an effort to curb waste and deal quickly with workers accused of misconduct. And the comptroller general, the top federal official responsible for auditing government finances and practices, has repeatedly ruled that federal workers should not be sidelined for long periods for any reason.

So we're forking over hundreds of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of workers placed on 'administrative leave,' all thanks to a provision originally designed to be used in very narrow circumstances?  Terrific.  This is bureaucracies doing what they do: Skirting or breaking internal rules, sticking taxpayers with the bill, and hoping that no one makes enough of a stink to upset the apple cart.  The news gets even better:

They found that supervisors used wide discretion in putting employees on leave, including for alleged violations of government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trustworthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses. Some employees remain on paid leave while they challenge demotions and other punishments. While the employees stayed home, they not only collected paychecks but accrued pension earnings, vacation and sick days, and moved up the federal pay scale...The GAO report almost certainly understates the extent and cost of administrative leave because the figures examined by the auditors were incomplete. Not all government agencies keep track of the practice, and those reviewed account for only about three-fifths of the federal workforce.

So these findings were made in the absence of roughly 40 percent of the relevant data.  Please file away "small" examples of federal waste like this for the next time Statists decide to blame the current crisis du jour on a lack of "resources" and "draconian cuts."  They just recently attempted one such gambit on the Ebola outbreak, using claims that were easily debunked with statistics and slapped down by fact-checkers.  As for the outlandish, eagerly-repeated claim from the NIH director that budget cuts have prevented the discovery of an Ebola vaccine, the Institute's lead researcher on the disease doused that assertion with cold water on yesterday's Meet the Press:

"I don't agree with that, I have to tell you quite honestly…you can't say that."

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