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Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Report on absenteeism infuriates federal workers

August 30, 2008

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Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has been checking up on the attendance records of federal employees. And he doesn't like what he's found.

Civil servants have been away from their jobs without permission much too often in recent years, Coburn says in a new report.

Records from 17 federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service show that workers were absent without leave for 19.6 million hours between 2001 and 2007, the study found.

That's the equivalent of

2.5 million missed days of work, or 316 employees skipping out for entire 30-year careers, says Coburn, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management.

"I have met many wonderful people who work for the federal government out of a sense of service to their country," Coburn wrote in a cover letter for the report, released Aug. 21. "Unfortunately, there is also a sizable and growing number of federal employees who undermine the agencies they serve by failing to show up to work."

But federal employees and their advocates, and a few agency officials, called the report misleading.

They said it does not put the numbers in context, omits other figures and unfairly disparages the professionalism of the federal workforce, which averaged about 2.5 million people, including postal employees, during the period Coburn studied.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents more than 150,000 federal workers, said in an e-mail: "The report is little more than a collection of numbers surrounded by innuendoes and loose extrapolations."

In a telephone interview, Coburn said he is bashing not the rank-and-file but rather bosses who do not address the issue.

In the Senate, Coburn is known as "Dr. No," a lawmaker who considers the government too big and wasteful and routinely votes against creating or expanding programs. He asked agencies for data on workers who were AWOL, or absent without leave, between 2001 and 2007.

That meant they were late or absent altogether, but not because of vacation, illness, jury duty or other approved leave.

As the report notes, not all agencies define AWOL the same way.

Some consider employees AWOL when they are 15 minutes late.

Others do so only for lengthier absences. Some agencies provided incomplete data - Transportation Security Administration figures were only for 2007, for instance. Employees are not supposed to be paid for time they are AWOL.

But the full story behind the AWOL numbers is more complicated, according to critics and agency officials.

Even public servants with the best of intentions are not always where they are supposed to be.

Coburn, for instance, has missed 58 of 1,283 votes, or 4.5 percent, during his nearly four years in the Senate, according to congressional records.

In six years in the House, he missed 232 of 3,741 votes, or 6.2 percent.

Comments

BrianR 6 years, 3 months ago

Hey Senator Coburn, if you calculate your height in inches and divide by your age, you get height per year.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 3 months ago

Were they absent without pay as well?If they had leave,they were paid?I see nothing wrong with taking an unprecedenterd day to yourself from time to time.Who knows how many mall shootings have been averted?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

So, that means the average federal worker has missed one day out of the last 1500 or so, which works out to be 7 hundredths of a percent. Which means Coburn's absentee rate is nearly 100 times greater. What a busybody hypocrite.

notajayhawk 6 years, 3 months ago

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says:" So, that means the average federal worker has missed one day out of the last 1500 or so, which works out to be 7 hundredths of a percent. Which means Coburn's absentee rate is nearly 100 times greater. What a busybody hypocrite."I see boohoozo's reading comprehension skills are as good as ever. Federal employees get about 4 weeks of sick and vacation time, plus another couple of weeks of holidays, when they start. The missed time referred to in this article is beyond that. Which means, if the numbers represent missed days (they might not all be entire days), would be the equivalent of 1500 people missing from the federal workforce during the entire six year period.I can certainly understand why boohoozo, who either doesn't work or wouldn't be missed at his job if he did, wouldn't be concerned with that.

ASBESTOS 6 years, 3 months ago

THis takes context as well:"Coburn, for instance, has missed 58 of 1,283 votes, or 4.5 percent, during his nearly four years in the Senate, according to congressional records.In six years in the House, he missed 232 of 3,741 votes, or 6.2 percent."Were the votes he missed the ones where there were procolamations of a winning college team or professional team, or a vote to name a Post Office?There are a lot of lazy self important governmental employees, that don't give a ssss. I am deal;ing with one now that I will have to report to the OIG, because of the gross misuse of funds for traveling all over the country on our dime to "promote" a research test that is already done. She is basically visiting political and personal friends and taking mini vacations on the public's dime.It happens all the time. Our Federal Civil Service system needs to retire and terminate a lont in our "service".

scott3460 6 years, 3 months ago

This is, no doubt, a complicated issue and I'll leave it to others, and hopefully independent professionals, to study what needs to be done on an agency by agency basis. Based on my own experience and observation, however, I feel very comfortable decrying the massive waste and abuse of government funds the TSA idiots engage in day in and day out across the country. I travel a good deal and without fail each and every TSA checkpoint I have ever encountered has been overstaffed by at least 50%. TSA employees are routinely surly and lazy & also generally ineffective. Most of the time fully 3/4 of the uniformed personnel standing around the checkpoints are doing nothing meaningful, and then there are the scads of "supervisors" oveseeing the entire operations. I have little doubt that the same services could be provided at 1/4 the current costs.

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