By DANA LIEBELSON
Just as POGO released an investigation showing that the federal government doesn't have reliable information about the cost or numbers of the government workforce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inadvertently proved our point. The EPA has not conducted a comprehensive analysis on the size of its workforce in twenty years, according to a new report released by the EPA Inspector General.
The EPA bases its resource needs on subjective data put together by staff, according to the report. As a result, it does not have concrete numbers that can justify the size of its workforce. This is problematic, given that the Obama Administration has requested that agencies cut their spending by five percent. As the IG points out, “budget allocations are better justified when supported by accurate, timely, and complete data”—which the EPA clearly doesn’t have.
POGO found in its recent Bad Business report that on average, service contractors cost the government nearly twice as much as the salary and benefits of federal employees. POGO has since recommended that government agencies do a thorough and timely cost analysis of its workforce in order to maximize savings when hiring contractors or federal workers.
Although the EPA lacks sufficient oversight of its workforce levels, the agency does prepare an annual inventory of service contracts over $25,000, as required by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). [This inventory is available online—if you’re not averse to combing through pages of an ugly .CSV file.]
The EPA has made significant progress recently in reforming contracts, according to agency officials. In response to a government-wide initiative to improve contracting, the agency has made greater efforts to improve competition and use fewer risky contracts. EPA estimates that it saved about $5.2 million after switching from cost reimbursement contracts to fixed price contracts.
These efforts are commendable, but the EPA should take the IG report into account. When POGO asked the Inspector General’s office about whether the EPA was taking action as a result of the report, the answer was cautiously optimistic.
“EPA is performing certain analyses and deciding a course of action but has not committed to conducting a comprehensive workforce analysis,” said John Manibusan, a spokesman for the EPA’s IG office. “We should note that our two report recommendations are unresolved, but with resolution efforts in progress.”
POGO encourages the EPA to consider the IG’s recommendations, do a thorough and timely cost analysis of its workforce and take action in a timelier manner. After all, the last time the EPA conducted its analysis was around the time that Paula Abdul was blaring on the radio, Dances with Wolves was raking in Academy Awards, and Bill Clinton was embarking on his first run for the White House.
Dana Liebelson is the POGO Beth Daley Impact Fellow.
Image via C-SPAN.