Small agencies pay big performance bonuses

Small agencies can be the best places in government to work if you want cash rewards for performance. Two small agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission paid the biggest average bonuses to their employees in 1997, according to a new analysis of performance bonus data.

The FDIC and the NRC, along with the Energy Department, gave their employees average bonuses that topped $1,600 in 1997, the most recent year for which data are available on performance awards in government.

On the other hand, the Government Printing Office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and United States Information Agency gave out little or nothing in employee bonuses.

In 1997, agencies paid 647,117 employees more than $491 million in performance bonuses, not including awards under the Senior Executive Service bonus system and the Presidential Rank/Distinguished Executive awards, according to data obtained from the Office of Personnel Management.

The data show small agencies tend to pay bigger bonuses. Those employing fewer than 1,500 people paid, on average, 0.86 percent of their salaries in bonuses. At the Small Business Administration, bonuses made up 1.68 percent of total salaries, the highest percentage of any agency.

The Office of Personnel Management is seeking to increase federal managers' flexibility to offer performance awards. OPM wants to overhaul outdated rules governing employee bonuses, particularly for recruitment, relocation and retention purposes.

Here's a look at the agencies that spent the most and the least on employee bonuses in 1997:

Highest Rewarding Agencies
Agency Average Bonus
1. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation $1,694
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission $1,655
3. Department of Energy $1,613
4. National Labor Relations Board $1,404
5. Panama Canal Commission $1,362
6. Department of Housing
and Urban Development
7. National Guard Bureau $1,239
8. Department of the Interior $1,215
9. Department of Defense Headquarters $1,214
10. Department of Commerce $1,166

Lowest Rewarding Agencies

Agency Average Bonus
1. Government Printing Office $ 0
2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission $ 390
3. United States Information Agency $ 395
4. Defense Commissary Agency $ 445
5. Department of State $ 449
6. Department of Transportation $ 496
7. Department of the Air Force $ 511
8. Defense Finance and Accounting Service $ 516
9. General Services Administration $ 553
10. Department of the Treasury $ 587
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