VA hands out employee bonuses too easily, audit finds

Veterans Health Administration and central office not adequately justifying millions in retention bonuses

The Veterans Affairs Department appears to be awarding millions of dollars in retention incentive payments to thousands of employees without adequate justifications, according to a new audit.

About 80 percent of such payments reviewed by the VA’s Office of Inspector General were found to be lacking in justification or documentation, the Nov. 14 audit stated.

The inspector general examined the practice of awarding retention incentives to employees in hard-to-fill positions, and employees with unique qualifications, at the Veterans Health Administration and VA Central Office.

In fiscal 2010, the department paid nearly $111 million in incentive payments to 16,487 employees, according to the Nov. 14 audit.

However, a review of 158 incentive payments totaling $1 million found a large majority to be questionable, the report said.

Of the 120 payments reviewed at the health administration, 80 percent were questionable. Of the 38 payments reviewed in the central office, 79 percent were questionable.

“We found VHA and VA Central Office approving officials did not adequately justify and document retention incentive awards in accordance with VA policy,” the auditors wrote. “VA lacked clear guidance, oversight, and training to effectively support the program. Officials did not effectively use the Personnel and Accounting Integrated Data system to generate timely review notices and did not always stop retention incentives at the end of set payment periods.”

The report recommended revised and clarified guidance, and better controls to ensure proper documentation. VA officials agreed with the recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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