|10-16-2004, 02:53 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Aug 2004
Tax Money well spent?
Report: TSA gave managers lavish party, generous bonuses
From Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers
Thursday, October 14, 2004 Posted: 11:56 AM EDT (1556 GMT)
TSA PARTY PRICES
$3.75 per soft drink
$64 per gallon of coffee
$264 per sheet cake
$500 per cheese display
• Transportation Security Administration
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sixty-four dollars for a gallon of coffee?
That is how much the Transportation Security Administration paid a Washington hotel to host a November 2003 awards banquet, contributing to a price tag for the party of nearly a half-million dollars, according to the Department of Homeland Security's independent investigator.
The TSA, which is in charge of airport security, also paid $3.75 for each soft drink, $1,850 for seven sheet cakes, $1,500 for three cheese displays, and more than $81,000 for awards plaques, according to the report from the department's Office of Inspector General.
The inspector general called the expenses "excessive." Although the agency followed laws and regulations, the report says, "the overall costs of the awards ceremony were unnecessarily expensive."
Some in Congress have criticized the TSA's hiring and spending practices.
Republicans say the agency has grown larger than expected after it was created after September 11, 2001, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said while he had not seen the full report it indicated "a colossal waste of money."
"There's something terribly wrong with that agency," Dorgan told the AP. "Of all the agencies, that's the one that's supposed to be working full-time against terrorist attacks."
The three-hour event at Washington's Grand Hyatt was followed by a reception for award recipients and guests, totaling about 1,100 attendees.
The cost of the event was approximately $461,745, including lodging, transportation and per diem allowances for award recipients.
The report also said the TSA paid higher average bonuses to its executives than every other federal agency, while slighting rank-and-file workers.
The average TSA executive bonus was $16,477, one-third more than the overall average of $12,444 for executives in other federal departments.
In addition, the TSA deemed almost all of its top managers above average. According to the report, 88 of its 116 senior managers received the bonuses, intended as incentive for executives who demonstrate extraordinary vision and leadership.
"TSA was more generous than other federal agencies," the report said. The 88 TSA managers who got bonuses represent 76 percent of all eligible managers. On average, federal departments give bonuses to 49 percent of eligible managers.
The TSA said the reason for the higher awards was that the performance cycle was the first time since the TSA came into existence that senior managers received bonuses. As a result, the bonuses represented two years' worth of recipients and awards.
The two-year period includes the time frame when the agency was set up, a TSA spokeswoman said Wednesday night. "Given the hours and productivity of the work force during this critical period, TSA believes the award expenditures were fully justified," she said.
The TSA also said its managers, unlike other federal government executives, are not eligible for Presidential Rank Awards.
The inspector general report also criticized the TSA for slighting lower-level employees. While the TSA's complicated pay structure makes exact numbers impossible to determine, fewer than three percent of the TSA's 50,878 non-executive employees received monetary bonuses; seven percent received non-monetary "time-off" awards.
"A substantial inequity exists in TSA's performance recognition program between executive and non-executive employees," the report said.
The TSA said that it is working to ensure that the upcoming award cycle is fair to all TSA employees.
The inspector general recommended the TSA solicit bids for future awards programs, ensure adequate justification for future bonuses, and provide equitable treatment for lower-grade employees when awarding bonuses.
In a statement released Wednesday night, the TSA said this year it will conduct "field focused awards ceremonies" at individual airports, while also conducting "a much smaller and less expensive headquarters awards event" in November.