The strategic management arm of the Broadcasting Board of Governors may be violating tax rules that require withholding of taxes from paychecks of thousands of full-time individual contractors, a blogger has charged, citing investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and the BBG’s inspector general.
BBG Watch, which is edited and published anonymously by volunteers with past or current ties to U.S. international broadcasting, wrote Thursday that the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau is “employing a large number of contractors as permanent employees, mainly at the Voice of America, and continuing to expose the agency and taxpayers to millions of dollars in liabilities.”
The blog post also asserted that bureau officials are covering up tension over the issue by slow-walking Freedom of Information Act requests from private parties, the press and nongovernmental organizations—and by “silencing” internal critics.
The BBG, which recently restructured its management team in preparation for bringing in a chief executive officer, depends on contractors – mostly individuals rather than companies -- for flexibility when it needs, for example, certain foreign language skills or during suddenly-erupting overseas conflicts.
The BBG says it is addressing the complex issues of contractor pay procedures and the ongoing quest for efficiency, “though there is a lot more to be done,” Lynne Weil, director of communication and external affairs, told Government Executive. “While it is inappropriate to discuss confidential conversations of the board, the BBG is studying the matter of how we work with independent individual contractors. Questions about the procurement process have been raised, and we, of course, are working on them, which includes working with the Office of the Inspector General.”
During the past several years, Weil added, the agency has taken steps to promote the interests of its contractor workforce. These include administering a feedback questionnaire that identified 16 issues to be addressed; six brown-bag lunches at which BBG managers spoke face-to-face with contractors; the setting of contractor office hours and designation of a senior staff liaison to contractors, she said.