FDA Suspends Gift Cards
It seems the new leaders of the Food and Drug Administration were just as curious about "employee incentive gift cards" as we were.
Yesterday, the acting commissioner suspended the program after reading here about one division's deal to buy a bunch of the cards, at $250 each, to reward employees.
Here's a story today in the Post:
"The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended the agency's use of gift cards and other informal bonuses to employees yesterday, after a report that the FDA had awarded a $41,030 contract last month to a company to supply the cards.
"Agencies across the government issue the cards and other kinds of informal bonuses. The FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health arranged to buy 160 of the cards at $250 apiece to reward employees for their hard work, an agency spokeswoman said.
"Acting FDA Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein announced the suspension after The Washington Post's Government Inc. blog published details of the April contract.
"FDA officials said the contract was properly awarded. But Sharfstein said in an interview yesterday that he wanted to learn more about the criteria for such an award, how the cards were acquired and the precautions taken by agency officials to ensure the cards are properly awarded. He said that about 15 percent of FDA's employees -- as many as 1,500 in all -- received gift cards last year.
"'My perspective is, we're the new team coming in. We are responsible for how the agency money is being spent,' Sharfstein said. 'It's really important that we're comfortable' with such incentives."
So, that's some swift reaction. And yet. We're more curious than ever.
The potential for rewarding hard-working federal employees seems clear. There's no doubt that many people work more than they get paid for.
And yet. The potential for abuse seems obvious. Apparently there is little oversight of who gets these informal bonuses? Are there guidelines for how they're handed out? $250 may not seem like much but we imagine it can add up.
Government Inc. is going to try and learn more. Please share any thoughts regarding the good, the bad and the ugly of informal bonuses.
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