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EPA pays $1 million to 8 workers to stay home on leave

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has paid eight employees more than $1 million to stay home on paid leave, four of them for at least a year and two who are in their fourth year of collecting full salaries and benefits while not working.

Collectively, the employees were paid not to work for 20,926 hours from January 2010 through September, costing taxpayers $1,096,868, the agency’s watchdog found in a report released Wednesday.

The report was issued a month after the Government Accountability Office found that during a three-year period that ended last fall, more than 57,000 employees across the federal government were sent home for a month or longer. The tab for these workers exceeded three-quarters of a billion dollars in salaries alone.

They were put on administrative leave after being accused of misconduct that ranged from a dispute with a supervisor to criminal activity.

In the EPA’s case, the agency “has carefully exercised its discretion in placing certain employees on administrative leave in cases of alleged serious misconduct,” a spokesman said in a statement.

GAO auditors estimated that the EPA paid $17,550,100 in salaries alone for about 69 employees on paid leave for a month or more between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2013.

The agency and numerous others received requests from several top Republicans in Congress to provide details on which employees are on leave and why.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr.’s office, which is conducting an audit of time and attendance records after the criminal conviction of a longtime employee who stole $900,000 from the agency while posing as a CIA agent, had discovered during its review that at least eight employees were on lengthy administrative leave.

Auditors discovered the eight employees during a payroll analysis of staff members who did not log onto their computers for four weeks running.

“Taxpayers are paying for a fully functioning workforce, and they should get it,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the lawmakers who requested the GAO report, said in a statement.

The broader time and attendance audit, requested by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is looking into whether any of EPA’s 15,000 employees are being paid but not working.

That report is scheduled for release in April.


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