SES members unscathed by bonus freeze

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Claire McCaskill Sen. Claire McCaskill, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. (File photo: McCaskill Flickr)

(This story was updated May 21 to include a comment from Dan Cruz, GSA spokesman) 

The federal government may have been be tightening its purse strings in the past few years, yet some senior-level employees have been receiving substantial cash bonuses – funded by taxpayer dollars, according to a new report.

Released May 18, Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) report revealed the federal government doled out more than $340 million on bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service between 2008 and 2011 – a practice the senator called “outrageous.”

“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” said McCaskill, who introduced bipartisan legislation that would stop bonuses from being awarded during sequestration.

Although SES employees make up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce, they received more than 4 percent of the total amount of federal dollars spent on employee bonuses during that time period, according to the report.

The report findings also showed a majority of SES members receive a bonus. In 2011, 6,519 members of SES received a bonus, which totals more than 80 percent of all SES employees.

On average, the General Services Administration awarded the most performance awards, giving out more than $1.1 million in bonuses to SES employees in 2011. GSA awarded an average of 1.6 bonuses to each SES employee at the agency.

In commenting on the report, GSA spokesman Dan Cruz said Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini last year as part of an agency operations review reduced executive bonuses by 85 percent. In addition, the performance awards system as a whole has been reviewed, and the new GSA leadership has worked to overhaul the system.

“As a result, GSA no longer has peer-to-peer awards,” Cruz wrote in an emailed statement. “Under this administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.”

Other federal agencies that on average awarded at least one performance award for every SES employee in 2011 include the Labor Department (1.2 awards per SES employee), the National Science Foundation (1.1 awards per SES employee), and the Department of the Navy (1.02 awards per SES employee).

Although most bonuses have been frozen for the federal workforce, under current legislation agencies must pay bonuses to SES employees who meet certain performance criteria. However, McCaskill’s legislation would stop performance award bonuses for SES employees during the across-the-board budget cuts.

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Agencies, Claire McCaskill, Congress, Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Labor, Departments, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Management & Budget, Military, Navy, Senate, Sequestration
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