Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

July 7, 2014

STUMPTALK: Demand better from government workers

CROSSVILLE — In a recent congressional hearing we learned that the VA awarded excessive bonuses to nearly all of their doctors and administrators. In a recent column we mentioned that the civil service employment provisions should be revised so that federal employees in the executive branch could be fired if they don’t perform to the satisfaction of the president. The president would then know that he (or she) will be solely responsible for any failures of the administration and would be more likely to demand hiring competent employees and insist on satisfactory performance.

The current system was established more than 100 years ago and was intended to provide for the hiring of workers based on merit. Merit has little or no influence anymore and the competent workers in the government deserve better. Many workers now simply put in time, get hefty salaries and bonuses regardless of work quality with virtually no risk of being fired. They then retire and receive generous lifetime incomes.

Look at the bonuses paid to the administrators of the Veterans Affairs even after the egregious failures in that system that caused some of our veterans to die while waiting for an appointment. If we can’t depend on those employees to perform their duties in a competent and responsible manner, how can we expect good work ethics from employees who work in areas where the life of those being served are not dependent on employee performance.

A report released by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) revealed that one thousand veterans died while waiting for health care at a facility where the director of the facility was granting $10 million in bonuses.

The private sector employers have the ability to reward or punish their employees based on the quality of their work. Voters have the ability to fire our representatives but we have no control over the public sector employees. 

We have seen evidence that the IRS has given bonuses to employees who were guilty of illegal drug use; unemployment benefits fraud and even tax evasion. A recent Treasury inspector general’s report stated that with few exceptions, the IRS does not consider tax compliance or other misconduct when issuing bonuses or other performance benefits.

Those who were able to watch the examination of John Koskinen witnessed Mr. Koskinen’s total disregard for the important and serious nature of those hearings. His failure to recognize his responsibility for honesty and his disrespect of the Congressmen was evident to all who watched. He seems to think he is not responsible to the people who pay his salary.

In addition to better pay than workers in private industry, federal workers receive 10 paid holidays, 13 to 26 days of annual vacation and up to 13 days paid sick leave a year providing up to 49 days off every year with full pay.

Office of Personnel Management data shows that it is five times as hard to get fired from a federal job as from the private sector and even harder to make it stick with all of the appeals available. You might remember the General Services Administration employee pictured in a hot tub sipping wine during a lavish 2010 Las Vegas boondoggle who was allowed to retire with full benefits. You might not know that his co-worker who was fired was reinstated, after the appeals process, with almost a year’s back pay. And we must not forget Lois Lerner who has been shown to have committed a crime by not saving copies of her emails as required by law and she has been allowed to retire with full benefits when she should be facing prison.

The federal employment system needs a complete overhaul.

• • •

Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at sykes113@frontiernet.net.

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