For the Good of Illinois

OpenTheBooks — The Case for Federal Performance Bonus Transparency

March 20, 2018 10:00 AM
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The Case for Federal Performance Bonus Transparency
 
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KEY FINDINGS:

1. In FY2016, the federal government doled out $1.5 billion in incentive, recruitment, relocation, retention, and performance bonuses.

2. The federal government disclosed 330,000 employees received bonuses totaling $351 million in FY2016.

3. Approximately $1.1 billion in federal performance bonuses were withheld from disclosure in FY2016.

4. All federal performance bonuses are shielded by anti-transparency language inserted into federal union contracts. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, performance bonuses are sometimes based on salary amount and performance rating, and disclosure may allow others to determine an employee's rating. 5. According to a Government Accountability Office audit published last summer using 2013 data, 99.6 percent of all federal workers received job performance ratings of "fully successful." That's a higher rating than the advertised purity of Ivory soap (99.3 percent).

6. Forcing open the federal performance bonus data will require an act of Congress. Congressman Mark Sanford (SC-1) spearheaded the Performance Bonus Sunshine Act which would require the disclosure of federal performance bonuses.

7. Bonus transparency is crucial at federal agencies which have demonstrated irresponsible practices in the past. For example, in 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in undeserved performance bonuses while sick veterans died waiting to see a doctor.

8. Presidio Trust, a small land management agency in San Francisco, California, awarded six of the 10 largest federal bonuses over the last three years (FY2014-2016), including six-figure bonuses to a human resources manager, a program manager, a general attorney, and a realtor.

9. The largest disclosed federal bonus went to Bart Farrell, a human resources manager in charge of processing payroll at Presidio Trust for $141,525.

10. In total, 60 percent of all disclosed bonus dollars were distributed by just five departments or independent agencies. The Department of Transportation paid out the most bonus dollars in FY2016, totaling $54.4 million. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce both doled out more than $50 million in bonuses each. 

 
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