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OPM Documents Surge in Bonuses to Outgoing Bush Officials

March 31, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bonuses to political appointees shot up to $386,000 in the waning days of the Bush administration, suggesting the ″spirit and purpose″ of the awards program was skirted, according to a Clinton administration report obtained Wednesday.

The Office of Personnel Management launched its study of ″last-minute″ bonuses to Bush appointees at President Clinton’s request last month. The White House said the post-election surge in awards, first reported by The Associated Press, smelled ″fishy.″

The study, sent to Clinton this week, found that bonuses to political appointees totaled $386,000 from Nov. 1, 1992, to Jan. 31, 1993, compared with $102,000 during the same period a year earlier.

The number of bonuses doled out during the period shot up 166 percent, from 50 to 133. The average size of the awards increased from $2,058 to $2,902.

By comparison, the number of bonuses of $1,000 or more to career employees rose just 11 percent during the same period, the study found.

In a letter to Clinton, Acting OPM Director Patricia Lattimore said the big increase in bonsuses for political appointees created ″at least the appearance that they were granted for reasons other than recognition of benefit to the government.″

″While technical procedures were followed, we believe the spirit and the purpose of the awards program was evaded, and that additional safeguards are needed,″ Lattimore wrote.

She said the program might be a good subject for Vice President Al Gore’s study of how to eliminate waste and inefficiency in government.

The OPM report also concluded:

-Current rules are not adequate ″to prevent misuse of flexibilities in the awards program.″

-Six of 23 agencies reviewed accounted for two-thirds of the awards to political appointees. They were the Energy, Education, Agriculture, Justice, Small Business Administration and Labor. ″This suggests individual deviations rather than a governmentwide problem.″

-Five agencies gave awards to their inspectors general, a practice that is ″problematic because it could call into question the integrity and independence of their work.″

-The Justice Department awarded several bonuses to presidential appointees, which is ″clearly inconsistent with OPM guidance and is damaging to the public’s perception of the service.″

The report said possible solutions when there is a change in administrations would be to ″issue cautionary guidance prior to the transition period″ or imposing a moratorium on certain bonuses during the period.

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