Senator: Fed workers miss millions of hours

Federal employees have missed almost 20 million hours of work since 2001, according to a new report from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

Drawing on self-reported data from 18 agencies, Coburn found that employees missed 19.6 million hours when they should have been working. The numbers measure only the hours lost to employees absent without leave, not those taking approved paid time off for vacations and sick leave.

The investigation found the number of lost hours has been gradually increasing, from 2.5 million in 2001 to 3.5 million in 2007, according to Coburn's office. Coburn is the ranking minority member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management Subcommittee.

"It is inexcusable that federal agencies would sit by and let this problem get worse, while some agencies are completely unaware that there even is a problem," Coburn said in a written statement. "Before agencies come hat-in-hand to Congress asking for money to hire more employees, they should fully use the ones they already have by getting the AWOL problem under control. AWOL employees put a hidden tax on the American taxpayer by making the federal government more inefficient with the resources it has been given."

The State Department did not provide information for the study, saying it does not track AWOL hours, according to Coburn's office.

The report shows:

• The number of hours lost to AWOL employees increased 45 percent from 2001 to 2007.

• Since 2001, nearly 300,000 federal employees have been AWOL for some period of time. The government has lost at least 9,410 years of work from AWOL employees since 2001.

• The Veterans Affairs and Treasury departments accounted for 61 percent of the AWOL hours.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.


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