- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

The federal government approved cash bonuses to political appointees that averaged more than three times the worth of similar awards given to career government workers, a General Accounting Office report shows.
The previously undisclosed GAO report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, said 32 of 46 federal agencies approved cash awards for 297 political appointees during the period of September 1999 through April 2001, each of the award winners averaging a cash payment of $2,252.
During that same period, career government employees who were approved for cash bonuses for exceptional work received an average payment of $748, GAO investigators said.
The cash awards to political appointees during the 20-month period totaled about $669,000.
"While every administration should be able to hire individuals who will serve and support its own agenda, that does not entitle those in power to pilfer the federal bonus system at the expense of loyal, non-political employees," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, who requested the GAO investigation.
Mr. Bond had asked the GAO to monitor the number and types of monetary awards provided to political appointees and requested that the agency determine how those payments compared to awards given to career federal employees.
The GAO report, completed in September 2001, was held until last week by Mr. Bond's office because of the "glut of news related to the events of" September 11. Staff spokesmen said last week, however, that the report showed "a clear disparity between awards to political appointees and civl servants."
The federal government administers an incentives program consisting of monetary and other awards, including letters of appreciation, time off and pay-grade step increases. The program is designed to recognize individual employees or groups of employees for significant performance on the job. It includes senior executive service employees and those in pay grades GS-4 through GS-15.
The awards can take several forms. Heads of agencies may approve cash awards of up to $10,000. Awards of more than $10,000 are generally subject to approval by the Office of Personnel Management, and cash awards topping $25,000 require presidential approval.
"Political appointees in each of the pay groups received monetary and time off awards less frequently than regular federal employees, but at a larger mean dollar value," the GAO report said. "The frequency and rate of awards, as well as mean dollar value, for both political employees and regular federal employees varied across the grade-level groupings of employees."
During the 20-month period reviewed by the GAO, 1,087,872 career government employees received cash awards for exceptional work, with the payments totaling about $813 million.
According to the GAO report, more than 30 percent of the cash awards approved for political appointees went to those in the Energy and Defense departments. The report said 53 political appointees at Energy received 64 separate cash awards totaling $146,000, while 44 political appointees at Defense received 47 separate cash awards worth $87,000.
The largest individual awards, according to the GAO, went to Patricia W. Lattimore, deputy chief financial officer at the Labor Department, who received $26,780; Timothy Fields Jr., assistance administrator for solid waste and emergency response at EPA, $17,760; Sallyanne Harper, chief financial officer at EPA, $17,760; and Kenneth M. Bresnahan, chief financial officer at Labor, $12,240.
Fourteen federal agencies did not authorize any cash awards for political appointees.


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