House Panel Clears Bill to Give $10,000 to Agency Cost-Cutters

Senators hail effort to curb end-of-the-year dash to spend down budgets.

The House Oversight and Government Reform panel on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reining in agency last-minute spending binges by offering a $10,000 bonus to employees to expose waste.

The Easy Savings Act (H.R. 2532), introduced last year by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., would expand the awards program for disclosures by federal employees of fraud, waste or mismanagement that result in cost savings to the employees’ agencies to include identification of potential surplus funds or unnecessary budget authority.

The bill specifies that the bulk of the savings would go to the Treasury, except for the 10 percent that would go to agency heads to pay cash awards to employees who identify the waste, which can include surplus salaries and expenses.

The bill, which cleared by voice vote, mirrors a Senate version (S. 1378) called the “Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act” that cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., who immediately praised the House action, noting that spending in the final week of a fiscal year is 4.9 times higher than the weekly average for the rest of the year.

“Today’s victory is especially timely, with the end of the government’s fiscal year just around the corner,” Paul said. “While ‘use it or lose it’ spenders have splurged with taxpayer funds to beat the clock in the past, the full House and Senate can now take a major step toward incentivizing saving and ending business as usual by passing this reform.”

Warner added that “Congress’ appropriations process can sometimes nonsensically encourage federal agencies to spend down the money they have been allocated as the end of the fiscal year approaches, regardless of whether the spending is needed or even wise. We need to discourage this ‘use it or lose it’ mentality, and instead incentivize federal agencies to be better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars by spending thoughtfully or returning unused funds to the Treasury at the end of the year.”  

Separately, the Oversight committee also approved the Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act (H.R. 5920) introduced by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. It would make permanent an expiring pilot program of whistleblower protections for certain civilian contractors with the federal government, while expanding an existing limitation on defense and civilian contractors being reimbursed by the government for legal costs incurred in proceedings related to whistleblower reprisal.

A similar bill (S. 794)  introduced in the Senate by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would extend whistleblower protection to the intelligence community’s contractors, subcontractors or grantees.