“Official Time” Robbing Taxpayers

From the Office of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) comes another report on your tax dollars at work – union work, as a matter of fact.

The report’s findings are sobering. In the ten agencies sampled by GAO, official time hours increased from 2.0 to 2.5 million between 2006 and 2013, with the biggest increases in the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Transportation. Total federally-paid official time hours exceeded 3.4 million in 2012 (the latest year data are available), costing taxpayers over $156 million.

In the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alone, approximately 265,000 voluntarily-registered bargaining unit employees were spread across roughly 18 unions and 200 facilities in 2013, and total hours used for official time exceeded one million.

“Unfortunately, however, many agencies allow their taxpayer-funded employees to focus their time and energy on full-time political, union activities that don’t have anything to do with the official task at hand.

It is important to note that these Office of Personnel Management (OPM) figures are based off rough estimates which GAO found “lack assurance of accuracy and also lack adequate documentation.” Therefore, the taxpayer tab may be even greater.
After concluding that “the scope and level of official time use reinforces the need for oversight and accountability,” GAO recommended that OPM add different cost estimate approaches, work with agencies to increase efficiency through their database, and consider sharing information on the monitoring of official time between agencies.