For decades, federal employees have used working hours to conduct union business, effectively forcing taxpayers to cover the costs of activity unrelated to job responsibilities. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., thinks this practice, known as ‘official time,’ is due for an overhaul. On March 26, Hice unveiled the Federal Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 1658). The bill, which has gathered more than 15 House co-sponsors, would bar unionized federal workers from engaging in bargaining or arbitration while on agency time. “After examining the practices of over 60 government agencies,” said Hice, “my office has found an astounding amount of government waste. By eliminating the ‘official time’ practice, we will return over $1 billion to hardworking American taxpayers, and shed this shady, wasteful practice that only benefits unions.”
A retirement plan supposedly is an excellent reason for joining a union. Yet a March report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals chronic underfunding and potential insolvency of pension plans involving a union and two or more private-sector employers within the same industry. The insurance fund covering these "multiemployer" plans, run by a federal agency, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), "would be exhausted in about two to three years if projected insolvencies of either of two large plans occur in the next 10 to 20 years." The study follows a January PBGC report projecting "current premiums ultimately will be inadequate to maintain benefit guarantee levels."
Demanding reparations from the federal government is now a growth industry. And Congress just helped it grow some more. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 256-152 to authorize $4.55 billion to settle a pair of unrelated longstanding class-action lawsuits, one against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the other against the Department of the Interior. In the first case, tens of thousands of black farmers - or at least blacks claiming to have been farmers - will receive $1.15 billion for alleged discrimination during 1981-96 at the hands of administrators of USDA aid programs, but who filed (or could have filed) claims after the deadline. This would be on top of the more than $1 billion that over 15,000 other plaintiffs have received. In the second case, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Indians will receive access to a $3.4 billion trust fund intended to rectify alleged Interior Department mishandling of royalty payments for the extraction of oil, gas, timber and other natural resources from tribal lands for economic activity. The Senate on November 19 unanimously had approved the settlements.
When it comes to oversight of federal programs, President Obama and key Democratic allies appear mired in self-contradiction. On one hand, they demand more accountability from the programs. On the other, they advocate increasing budgets for agencies with documented weak internal controls. Legal Services Corporation (LSC) may be the most glaring example of this syndrome.
Ask almost anyone in Washington to name the best public policy analysis shop in town, and a common response would be the Government Accountability Office (GAO).Created in 1921, this agency, known until July 2004 as the General Accounting Office, performs hundreds of program audits each year for Congress, often at the behest of one or more of its members.These studies are widely trusted for their timeliness, depth and accuracy.A major reason for the high quality is the agency’s lack of an ideological axe to grind.The GAO’s nonpartisan status gives its analysts maximum leeway to investigate and evaluate federal activity of all kinds, without fear of political reprisals.But that freedom could be jeopardized in the wake of the recent vote to form a union by analysts at agency headquarters and 11 field offices.