EPA’s Office of Inspector General Criticizes Own Buyouts
The EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report regarding its offers of buyouts and early retirement packages to agency employees.
The report found that, “With its VERA-VSIP (Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments) authority, the OIG achieved its goal to reduce the size of its workforce but did not achieve its other workforce restructuring goals.”
According to GovExec, 23 EPA employees separated from the OIG. “However, the OIG’s weak management controls resulted in 11 of these 23 employees receiving separation payments even though their positions were not included in the OIG’s VERA-VSIP plan approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The cost of these 11 VSIP buyouts was approximately $347,000, which included payment for unused annual leave that employees were entitled to upon separation from their positions. Furthermore, the OIG did not abolish from its workforce profile the 23 positions vacated after the buyouts, as its OPM-approved plan stated it would.”
In its report, the OIG made four recommendations for improved handling of VERA-VSIP offers, moving forward:
- permanently abolish positions identified in the OIG’s VERA-VSIP plan;
- update the OIG’s restructuring plan as appropriate;
- develop internal controls to prevent future buyouts to staff in positions not approved by OPM;
- ensure adherence to VERA-VSIP obligations, including reporting requirements.
According to a statement from Edward Shields, the acting deputy assistant inspector general in the office of management, the office concurs with the reports findings, minus a few qualms with specific findings. “While the OIG concurs with the basis of the report’s recommendations, we do not agree with the level of specificity contained in the recommendations,” wrote Shields. “We are requesting that you modify the recommendations to provide us greater flexibility for execution.”
However, despite the caveats, the OIG notes that two of the four recommended corrective actions are closed, while two are still pending. GovExec reports the office expects to “be in compliance with all recommendations by Sept. 30.”
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