Feds Gave Employees 127,000 Cash Bonuses
Ever since we first heard about the FDA's plan to buy gift cards to "incent" hard working employees to keep them, well, working hard, we wanted to know more.
You may recall that the FDA deal involved the purchase of 160 "employee incentive gift cards" worth $250 each. The contract was worth $41,030. (Yes, when you do the math, it appears that the contractor got about $6.44 for each card delivered.)
We learned from the acting FDA administrator that about 15 percent of all agency employees received a gift card last year. Acting FDA Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein knew that because he himself said he was trying to find more detail about the program, which he suspended pending a review.
Now the Office of Personnel Management is adding some new -- incomplete but compelling -- details about the gift cards and other forms of informal employee bonuses, including cash payments.
It seems that OPM keeps no data about the gift cards or other kinds of bonuses. That's interesting to us.
But they do have information about cash bonuses, also known vividly as on-the-spot awards. According to the OPM data, federal agencies gave out 127,030 cash awards in the year that ended in October.
We'll repeat that: Federal managers gave out up to $250 in cash to employees 127,030 times in fiscal 2008. That's potentially worth up to $32 million in tax dollars.
So. We'd like to note that our curiosity about all this is growing. How are these bonuses handled? Who decides who deserves the money? What's the process for keeping track of it? Is it fair? Does it work? Do some employees get multiple bonus cards or cash payments?
It's worth repeating that we know many people in the federal government are not paid enough for all the good work they do. At the same time, we believe that money minus oversight equals mischief.
This isn't by any means big money, but it offers an unusual peek into the federal system.
Please let us know what you know.
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