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EDITORIAL: Government workers should not receive bonuses

Editorial staff • Aug 29, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Did you get a bonus this year? Not likely — unless you work for government. Did you receive a paid vacation for violating a workplace rule? Not likely — unless you work for government.

Why is it that employees of the taxpayers are paid more, receive better benefits, retire much earlier, have near unlimited job protection, and yet are less efficient? Here are two cases in point.

We just learned that two-thirds of employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs received more than $5 million in bonuses at the end of 2011 for “excellent” or “outstanding” performance. The thing is, employees at some of the department’s most ineffective offices were more likely to receive bonuses than workers at its most productive offices.

For instance, the VA’s regional office in Oakland, Calif., gave about 90 percent of its employees bonuses despite that operations at the office were so bad that it was temporarily shut down to “retrain” its under performing workers. At the VA’s Baltimore office, nearly half of workers got a bonus despite that the office had the longest wait time for service of all the VA offices in the nation.

Why should government employees get a bonus? Are they underpaid? Here are some sample average salaries for VA employees: IT specialist, $79,000; HR specialist, $78,000; program analyst, $72,000; claims examiner, $57,000. For most folks in the private sector, doing a satisfactory job means you get to keep it.

And why, for that matter, why were under performing employees “retrained?” In the private sector, if your performance fails, you’re fired.

Worse, still, is how the department operates. Performance standards encourage workers to push aside more complicated claims and process easier ones in order to qualify for extra pay through a points system. As a result, quality of work goes down: Fully three-quarters of all appeals claims in the VA were either done incorrectly or lacked information. More than 14,000 veterans had appeals pending for more than two years. In the private sector, supervisors ensure you do the work or you’re fired.

Then there’s the case of the Department of Homeland Security employee who erected a racist website advocating a race war. The employee is an acquisitions officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in charge of buying weapons and ammunition for the government.

He told employers he was putting up an entertainment website selling videos. Instead, he put up a site criticizing whites, gays, those of mixed race, and blacks who integrate with whites. The site declares, “In order for black people to survive the 21st century, we are going to have to kill a lot of whites. ...”

So what happened to this character when the site was unveiled? Initially, nothing. But finally, he was removed from his job. No, he wasn’t fired. He was placed on paid leave — a vacation.

He should be fired. And his supervisor should be fired. And that person’s supervisor should be fired, right on up the line.

As to bonuses, no employee of the taxpayers should ever get one, period.

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