Bush Labor Department misled Congress in effort to privatize jobs

Source: by John Byrne  Raw Story

President George W. Bush’s Labor Department misled Congress in an effort to prove outsourcing jobs to private companies was more efficient than assigning the jobs to government employees, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

The report (pdf here) found that the Department used fictional projected numbers to improve “savings reports” — even when real numbers were already available. And when the government did find private firms to take a government job, that employee generally was either reassigned to another task with the same title or promoted.

The effort was called “competitive sourcing,” aimed to increase government efficiency by having federal and private organizations compete for providing services. While part of a federal government approach since 1955, the Bush Administration has made the approach a key element of the President’s Management Agenda under the Office of Management and Budget.

An investigation revealed, however, that the Labor Department — under direction from Bush budget officials — deliberately withheld information about true costs.

According to the report, the Department of Labor “excluded a number of substantial costs in its reports to Congress — such as the costs for precompetition planning, certain transition costs and staff time and post competition review activities — thereby understanding the full costs of this contracting approach.”

The report noted that this approach was consistent with “guidance” given by the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget.

In addition, the report found the Department’s “savings reports” were “not reliable: a sample of three reports contained inaccuracies, and others used projections when actual numbers were available, which sometimes resulted in overstated savings.”

Most workers were also demoralized as the government tried to find private firms to take over their jobs, the probe found.

Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao began having workers compete for their jobs in 2004. Few employees have lost their jobs. But when the government found a private company to take over their position, 84 percent were reassigned to different positions with the same title or were promoted.

Since implementation, 22 employees were laid off or demoted, all of them African American.

The senator who commissioned the report, Iowa’s Tom Harkin, along with the House committee that oversees the Labor Department, David Obey, said in a letter Monday that the report proved “the negative impact the Bush Administration’s failed policies have had” on the Department.

“Under the direction of this White House, the Department of Labor has increasingly attempted to move work performed by Federal employees to private contractors” and, in so doing, hurt workers’ morale and “grossly overstated savings,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to strengthen the Department of Labor as it undertakes the critical missions of making sure our workplaces are safe; protecting employee pensions, health benefits and rights; and providing workers with the skills they need to compete successfully in the 21st century economy.”

In brief what the GAO found:

Competition between federal and private organizations to provide services—referred to as “competitive sourcing”—can be one way to help achieve greater efficiency in government. Under guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), competitive sourcing has been implemented at various executive branch agencies over the years. As required under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 and directed by House Report 110-231, this report examines the use of competitive sourcing at the Department of Labor (DOL). Specifically, GAO examined the comprehensiveness and reliability of DOL’s performance and cost assessments in accordance with OMB and DOL guidance as well as the impact of competitive sourcing on certain DOL workers. To address these issues, GAO reviewed relevant statutes, guidance, reports and personnel actions; and interviewed OMB and DOL officials and 60 DOL staff, grouped by role, in four locations.

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