The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kept employees on paid administrative leave for years, costing taxpayers more than $1 million.
An "Early Warning" report released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday revealed that eight employees racked up 20,926 hours of paid administrative leave, including some employees who were paid not to work for four years.
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The eight employees cost taxpayers $1,096,868 alone. The report is in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis released last month that found government-wide paid administrative leave cost $3.1 billion from 2011 and 2013.
The GAO report detailed that the EPA paid 69 employees to not work for 4,711 days between 2011 and 2013, costing $17,550,100.
The OIG analyzed paid leave for this year, focusing on eight employees who took the most paid leave. Half of the employees were on paid administrative leave for more than a year, including one EPA employee who was paid from May 2010 until September 2014, costing taxpayers $351,300.
The amount of paid leave taken by these employees may be higher, the OIG said, since several were missing timesheets during their period of paid leave.
The OIG report was categorized as addressing the goal of "Embracing EPA as a high-performing organization."
The EPA allows for paid administrative leave for voting, funerals, donating blood, and bad weather. However, all eight employees were on paid administrative leave for at least four months.
The EPA’s leave manual offers no determination for what is considered an "acceptable amount of administrative leave."
The OIG pointed out that employees could be placed on long-term paid leave for disciplinary reasons.
"The leave manual also provides that one authorized use of administrative leave is when an employee’s removal or indefinite suspension is proposed, and the employee’s continued presence at the work site during the notice period would constitute a threat to public property or the health and safety of coworkers or the public."
The EPA has had to deal with employees who have threatened the work environment for their fellow workers before.
The OIG presented its findings to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Oct. 30, and the agency is currently reviewing background information on the employees in question.