The Department of Homeland Security has refused to disclose why it spent $1.8 million to keep 88 employees on paid leave for one year.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley pushed for clarification in a letter sent last Monday – prompting Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to provide the reason for an employee’s placement on paid leave. Specifically, a full explanation of why reassignment to other duties or another location was not an option, and why the employee was not placed on some form of unpaid leave.
Chairman Grassley’s inquiry was the latest request for transparency after DHS reported that among the 88 employees placed on paid administrative leave, four were on administrative leave for approximately three years or more, two of whom continued to be on administrative leave at the time of DHS’ response. An additional 17 employees were reportedly on administrative leave for approximately two years or more, including five who remained in this status at the time of DHS’ response.
These 88 employees were also across the department’s components, suggesting systemic misuse of paid administrative leave.
And while the DHS website does have nebulous categories for paid leave, it’s not the only federal agency investigated for arbitrarily paying people to stay home.
The investigation into paid leave by federal agencies came to the forefront after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a federal audit last October. The GAO report examined data from fiscal years 2011 to 2013 from more than 100 federal agencies – finding that salary estimates for paid administrative leave for fiscal years 2011–2013 totaled nearly $3.1 billion.
Salary estimates for the 263 employees who took between 1 – 3 years totaled $31 million. At least 53,000 workers were on paid administrative leave during the period analyzed and around 4,000 stayed home with full salary for three months to a year, according to the probe.
As Chairman Grassley stated, this flippant use of paid leave results in “employees getting paid to stay home, sometimes for more than a year, while management keeps them in limbo. This is detrimental to taxpayers and good government.”