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Bill Would Stop IRS From Rehiring Employees It Already Fired for Misconduct

Lawmakers introduce measure after auditors found IRS took back malfeasant workers.

The Internal Revenue Service would be prohibited from rehiring employees fired for misconduct, under new bill from a pair of Republican lawmakers.

Reps. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Peter Roskam, R-Ill., introduced the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act in response to an inspector general report earlier this year finding the agency hired more than 300 past employees who had been forced out or left while under investigation for performance or misconduct issues. More than one in 10 of the 7,000 employees called back to the IRS between January 2010 and July 2013 had “substantiated employment issues,” according to the report.

“It is completely irresponsible to rehire an employee who has already been fired for violating taxpayer privacy or falsifying official documents, and yet this has happened hundreds of times at the IRS,” Noem said. “This legislation is about improving the integrity of a workforce that has significant access to taxpayers’ most intimate financial information.”

The February report found 20 percent of the rehired, previously malfeasant employees ended up with “new conduct or performance issues.” IRS said it was acting within the confines of federal hiring standards, and that prior conduct and performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the best-quality candidates.

Noem said that excuse would not cut it.

“If IRS leadership won’t instill commonsense hiring practices within the agency, we will work to write it into law,” she said.

Roskam called it “unfortunate” the bill was necessary, but said IRS’ hiring practices made the need for the bill obvious. The IRS auditor had recommended the agency meet with the Office of Personnel Management to discuss whether and during what part of the hiring process the IRS can fully consider prior conduct and performance.

Noem said her bill was just the tip of the iceberg relating to IRS workforce issues, saying the agency provides too many bonuses and an excessive amount of “official time” to union employees. She said the legislation “will not solve all the problems that riddle this agency, but it does take a step forward in providing the vigorous oversight the IRS clearly needs.”

Charles S. Clark contributed to this report

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