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GSA's bonus issue

So I've been meaning to post about this since the story ran on Tuesday. The WP's Federal Diary columnist Stephen Barr has a story about GSA and its bonuses.

More bonuses are in the works at the General Services Administration.

Lurita A. Doan, the head of the GSA, has expanded the number of employees eligible for performance awards, saying that a previous policy "excluded many employees who are vital to GSA's business success."

Under the old policy, employees who received the top two ratings in the agency's performance-recognition system -- a 4 or 5 on a five-level scale -- were eligible for bonuses. Doan, in a memo to the GSA staff Aug. 7, said she had decided employees given a Level 3 rating also should be eligible.

The new policy is to be implemented by the end of the current rating period, Sept. 30, Doan said. She noted in her memo that implementing the change would hinge on GSA offices updating their employee-evaluation procedures and the outcome of agency discussions with unions on the new policy.

Doan has been under fire from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is examining allegations that she violated the Hatch Act by asking GSA political appointees how they could "help our candidates" during a briefing this year at the agency by a White House official.

I'm guessing this story -- and the policy -- created a lot of talk around GSA. I haven't seen the policy itself yet. I have spoken to some people who have, but I'd be interested in hearing what others say about the changes.

I spoke to some GSA insiders. They disagreed with the tone of the story, which was, essentially, that Doan, under fire from the Hill about bonuses, has changed around the bonus system. GSA folks, rather, argue that the changes are an effort to treat everybody the same way, whether they are SES or not. Previously, SES employees who got a performance rating of three, four or five got a bonus. For other GSA employees, one got a bonus if you got a four or five. So the changes were an effort to standardize across the organization.

As I say, I'm interested to hear what others think about the changes.

Two observations: it demonstrates the difficulties with bonuses. I was talking to a former CIO the other day who was noted that bonus issues are complex in the private sector, but they are particularly complex in the public sector. (See the issues FDA has had with bonuses.)

But I think we all have a bit of a tendency to see Machiavellian workings. We believe that GSA -- and Doan -- are focused on all the Doan "issues," therefore we relate any decision to those Doan issues.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Aug 17, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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