How would you like to get paid a full-time salary plus benefits for not working, and without taking any sick days? Sounds like a dream, right?
According to both the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General, eight EPA employees were paid more than $1 million while on paid administrative leave. These eight employees were on paid leave for at least four months. Four of them were on leave for more than a year, including one who was away for more than four years.
From 2011 to 2013, the EPA paid $17,550,100 in paid leave salaries, not including benefits, for 69 employees.
A Nov. 19 EPA report confirmed that eight employees had a total of 20,926 hours of administrative leave, costing taxpayers an estimated $1,096,868 from January 2010 to Sept. 2014. The report was in response to an Oct. 17 GAO study on paid administrative leave in the federal government, which will be released in April 2015.
GAO auditors found that from fiscal years 2011 to 2013, the EPA paid $17,550,100 in paid leave salaries, not including benefits, for 69 employees. Government personnel regulations state that paid leave for employees related to misconduct should be used only in “rare circumstances.” According to the Washington Post, employees on paid leave continued to collect a salary, pension, vacations, sick days and even climb the federal pay scale.
Sen. David Vitter, R- La., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been particularly critical of the EPA’s faulty accountability. In 2013, EPA employee John Beal was convicted of fraudulently posing as a CIA agent and stealing almost $900,000 in taxpayer money.
Vitter critiqued the EPA’s general lack of oversight. He stated, “[According to whistleblowers] senior EPA managers discouraged remedial action against chronic offenders because it was easier to ignore the problem than fix it.” Vitter also claimed that “wasted taxpayer resources and mismanagement permeates the Agency… John Beale and his crimes were just the tip of the iceberg.” This latest controversy seems to have exposed more of the iceberg.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is one of the lawmakers who requested the GAO report and is also preparing legislation to reform administrative leave policies. He stated, “EPA should explain why these employees were on leave for so long. Too often, extended paid leave is an excuse for managers to put off making a decision on whether an employee should be on the job while an administrative action is pending.”
The fact that at least eight EPA employees have been receiving full salary for not working for months on end is absurd. As Grassley concluded, “Taxpayers are paying for a fully functioning workforce, and they should get it.”