Model Telework Program Runs Into Problems of Its Own

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The General Services Administration, which promotes the virtues of telecommuting governmentwide, has itself fallen short in managing its virtual employee workforce, an inspector general said Tuesday.

“GSA does not know the number of virtual employees it has, and some virtual employee work arrangements were not fully approved,” according to a review of documentation of the 10,000 GSA employees who charged time to telework from August 2012 to July 2013.

Travel costs related to virtual work were in many cases not assessed annually, hours worked were often inaccurately reported, required forms were not always filled out and designations of official duty stations were not always correct, the watchdog found.

Though GSA employees are required to take training in proper telework procedures, the report said, “as of June 24, 2013, 11,811 GSA employees had taken ‘Telework Works’ but 614 had not. Over half of those who had not completed the course teleworked during June 2013.”

Lapses in documentation for travel costs meant that for 29 of 57 virtual employees sampled, actual travel costs to the agency worksite exceeded the cost estimates reflected on forms, the report said. For 13 employees, the actual costs were more than double the estimate.

Official duty stations were listed incorrectly for 24 (32 percent) of the 76 virtual employees the auditors identified, though the errors resulted in incorrect pay to the virtual employee in only two instances, the IG said. One employee was underpaid by $4,323, and the other overpaid by $7,883.

To improve management of teleworkers, the watchdog recommended that the agency through its chief people officer strengthen controls over approvals of the work arrangement—including verifying that transit subsidies are not claimed for days spent teleworking. GSA should also produce an accurate list of telecommuters, the watchdog said.

On reviewing a draft of the report, GSA Chief Human Capital Officer Antonia Harris wrote to the regional IG saying she “does not dispute” the report’s findings. But she said the agency had already implemented a new review of budget and performance compliance procedures, is updating mobility and telework policies, and is now verifying employees’ official duty stations.

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