Waiver of Repayment of Erroneously Granted SES Award

B-203478: Dec 30, 1981

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The Chairman of the International Trade Commission (ITC) requested waiver of an overpayment made to two employees of its Senior Executive Service (SES) after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) notified ITC that it had exceeded the statutory limitation on bonuses payable. The questions raised concerned whether: (1) the payments in question were erroneous; and (2) the request for waiver should be granted. Award of SES bonuses is limited to 25 percent of the number of SES positions in an agency. ITC awarded two bonuses although it was only authorized six SES positions. GAO agreed with OPM that the ITC award of the bonuses violated the applicable statute and, accordingly, found the payment erroneous. However, GAO granted the waiver, because: (1) OPM failed to advise ITC of its violation for over 1 month after the fact; (2) neither employee involved had reason to know of the illegality of the award; and (3) the awards were made based on an ITC misinterpretation of the applicable statute.