CBO: Placing feds on unpaid leave wouldn’t really affect spending

Former GSA official Jeff Neely Former GSA official Jeff Neely J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A House bill that puts senior civil servants accused of wrongdoing on unpaid leave would not significantly affect federal spending, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

The legislation, which allows agencies to place Senior Executive Service employees on unpaid administrative leave for up to 180 days if they are accused of misappropriation of funds or other job-related misconduct, grew out of the scandal involving an extravagant Las Vegas conference held in 2010 at taxpayers’ expense by the General Services Administration. Senior executive Jeff Neely, who left GSA this past spring, planned the conference and continued to receive his salary during the subsequent investigation. Agencies typically place employees accused of wrongdoing on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. Employees can later be suspended indefinitely without pay under current regulations, depending on the results of the investigation.

If Congress passes H.R. 6016, the effects on revenue resulting from lower discretionary spending on salaries and expenses would be minor, the nonpartisan CBO said. “Because affected employees would not receive a salary for a period of time, they also would not make scheduled retirement contributions, resulting in a reduction in revenues. CBO estimates that those reductions would not be significant,” the analysis said. Senior executives who are found not guilty of criminal or misconduct charges would receive the back pay they are owed, said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., during a markup of the bill this summer. The committee approved H.R. 6016 and the bill is pending consideration by the House.

CBO said administrative leave for government employees accused of misconduct is “very uncommon,” citing anecdotal information from the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies. As a result, CBO said it estimated only a few SES employees would be subject to unpaid leave during the next decade if the legislation is enacted.

Lawmakers’ complaints about federal workers during the past year have ranged from excessive bonuses to tax delinquency.

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