Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the government tries to do too many things while rewarding its employees with too many bonuses.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the government tries to do too many things while rewarding its employees with too many bonuses. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Lawmaker: Every Agency Could Easily Find at Least 5% of Fat to Trim

Somewhere there's always a fed "doing something stupid," House oversight chairman says.

The top oversight role for Congress in relation to federal agencies is rooting out the people doing dumb things, a House Republican said on Thursday.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution the government tries to do too many things while rewarding its employees with too many bonuses. 

“There’s always someone doing something stupid,” Chaffetz said, alluding to his role in bringing those examples into the spotlight. His biggest challenge, he added, is figuring out how to “narrow the scope” on all of the government’s malfeasance.

Chaffetz said his committee receives 60 to 70 tips each day from federal workers pointing out inefficiencies and waste at their agencies.

One way to ensure better oversight, the chairman said, is to reduce the missions of federal agencies. He posited there was “no way” that any agency would struggle to identify cuts to 5 percent of their operations.

“So much of what the federal government is doing, they shouldn’t even be doing,” Chaffetz said. “You’ve got to trim the fat, get in there to the underbrush, clear it out.” He added, “We’ve got too many people doing too many things,” pointing his finger at “the run up of employees.”

The congressman said better management would enable to agencies to run more efficiently, as well as improve morale for the good workers they employ. Simply increasing pay will not solve job satisfaction problems, he explained, noting rank-and-file employees feel they are treated differently than their supervisors. In fact, Chaffetz said compensation for federal workers has been too generous.

“Right now, more than half of federal employees get a bonus,” Chaffetz said. “That doesn’t make sense to the American people.” The chairman advocated a pay-for-performance system that rewards only the top workers.

“You shouldn’t just sit in perpetuity forever with this safety and comfort blanket that says, ‘Oh, they’re never going to get rid of me and I get my automatic pay raise,’” Chaffetz said. ”That creates a malaise that I think is unacceptable.”

Instead, Chaffetz once again called for giving agency heads more authority to fire their employees.

“I want to give the secretaries the flexibility to root out the bad apples, get rid of those people that are doing terrible awful things,” Chaffetz said. “They got to be able to fire the bad apples and take care of those that do great work.”

He noted that several agency leaders have testified to his committee that they are struggling to fire their worst employees and would like more power to do so.

For one federal official, Chaffetz is attempting to take the firing into his own hands. The watchdog leader introduced articles of impeachment against Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen in October, and has been working “behind the scenes” to move that process forward.

“Mr. Koskinen better lawyer up,” Chaffetz said. “It’s about to get ugly.” 

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