Lawmaker calls for telecommuting czar

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., last week called for a telework czar to see that legislation requiring more telecommuting in the federal workforce is actually implemented. During a hearing Thursday before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, Wolf told officials from the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration that their agencies were barriers to increased telecommuting among federal employees. "This is the law," Wolf said angrily. "Agencies who aren't compliant ought to be held accountable. We're honor bound and duty bound to do this even if we don't want to." By law, federal agencies must establish policies allowing eligible employees to telecommute. The law also requires OPM to ensure that 25 percent of the federal workforce is participating in telecommuting programs at least part of the time by April 2001. Wolf added the language that set telecommuting goals to the fiscal 2001 Transportation appropriations bill. "This is not a recommendation. This is the law of the land," Wolf continued. "You may be doing this [in your agencies], but you really haven't gotten behind this [governmentwide]." Tony Young, director of government activities for NISH, an organization that creates employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities, testified that there is a lack of knowledge about how to manage employees without a face-to-face relationship. "Work should be divided into manageable tasks, reviewed frequently and measurements must be made to determine performance," Young told legislators. OPM Acting Director Steve Cohen admitted there needed to be a change in attitude among federal managers, but Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said the issue needs to become a priority in the executive branch. "My sympathies to government managers who just get inundated with rules and regulations by Congress and the executive branch, but with appropriate leadership we can make a big difference," Davis said. "It really comes down to priorities." Earlier this month Wolf introduced the Telework Tax Incentive Act (H.R. 1012), which would provide a tax credit for the costs incurred by either an employee or an employer to set up a work station in an employee's home.
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