Darrell Issa to Investigate 'Do-Nothing' Patent Office Employees

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Flickr user Stanford Center for Internet and Society

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is launching an investigation into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after reports surfaced indicating employees routinely do "little to no work" by abusing the agency's generous telework policies.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker sent Tuesday, Issa asked the Patent Office to respond to a series of accountability questions following an explosive Washington Post article that "describes numerous instances of misconduct and apparent efforts by officials to conceal wrongdoing."

"The waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement described by The Post is unacceptable, " Issa wrote. Echoing a familiar complaint lobbed against the agency, the California Republican further condemned the agency's alleged abuses for coming at a time when the office has a "backlog of patent applications of over 600,000, and an approximate wait time of more than five years."

"Despite patent examiners generally receiving a salary at the top of the federal pay scale—some making $148,000 a year—it appears the telework program is not serving its intended purpose to produce more efficiency," he wrote.

Earlier this month, The Post reported on the findings of a full internal report conducted by the Patent Office that painted a much more damning picture than an edited version provided to an outside watchdog.

Among the internal inquiry's findings, some 8,300 patent examiners, roughly half of whom work from home full time, "repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in, and many were receiving bonuses for work they didn't do," according to The Post.

The internal investigation wrapped up last summer, but the version of the report sent to Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser concluded it was difficult to ascertain whether whistle-blower claims of systemic abuses were valid. Alternatively, the unscrubbed report, kept secret until The Post report, is far more definitive in its findings of an unchecked culture of fraud and abuse.

In his letter, Issa compared the reported wrongdoing to a 2012 scandal involving the General Services Administration, which held a conference in Las Vegas that included wasteful expenses on things such as the hiring of a clown and a $75,000 team-building exercise. Reports of patent examiners being paid while surfing the Internet and doing laundry at home "because managers gave limited assignments ... calls into question the business model of the patent office," Issa wrote.

Issa requested the agency hand over "all documents and communications, including emails" relevant to reported abuses by Sept. 2.

(Image via Flickr user Stanford Center for Internet and Society)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.