Personnel Practices:

Monetary Awards Provided to Political Appointees

GAO-01-1081R: Published: Sep 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2001.

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George H. Stalcup
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The federal government runs an incentive awards program, consisting of monetary and nonmonetary awards, to recognize individual employees or teams for outstanding contributions that enhance government operations. Congress has placed prohibitions on cash awards to political appointees. Overall, 32 of the 46 agencies reported that 297 political appointees received 373 monetary awards from September 1999 through April 2001. The remaining 14 agencies reported that they did not provide any awards to political appointees during that period. Political appointees in each of the government's pay groups received both monetary and time-off awards less frequently than did regular federal employees, but at a larger mean dollar value. The mean dollar value of all monetary awards to political appointees exceeded that of awards to regular federal employees. The number, rates, and mean dollar value of awards to political and regular federal employees also varied by type of award. Individual political appointees and regular federal employees often received more than one award. Agencies reported that 46 political appointees, or about 17 percent of the appointees who received monetary awards, received multiple awards from September 1999, through May 2000. Six departments--the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Labor, State, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs--gave out 15 cash awards totaling $38,149 to 14 political appointees during the moratorium. Agency officials said that these awards were made in error and that they had rescinded all of them and had recovered, or were in the process of recovering, the money. GAO did not identify any instances that violated the prohibition of cash awards to presidential appointees.

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