Watchdog Group Accuses Feds Of Abusing Work From Home Tech

( A government watchdog is calling for investigations into the federal government’s telework practices after its research showed “dramatic reductions in paid leave used by the federal workforce” during the pandemic.

In its Federal Leave report, the Federal Government Initiative (FGI) warned that the impact of the federal government’s telework should be investigated “more fully” by Congress, Inspectors General from individual agencies, “and other oversight entities” before the government engages “in expanded telework in perpetuity.”

In its report, FGI compiled the use of annual and sick leave by 24 federal agencies using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report found a “steep decline” in the use of annual leave in 2020 at all 24 agencies and the trends did not “return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.” The annual leave usage dropped by 16 percent in 2020 compared to 2018.

In 2021, there was a modest rebound in annual leave usage, but many federal agencies remained below the 2018 figures.

Some agencies saw significant drops in the usage of sick leave during the same period as well.

The annual sick leave usage at the National Archives fell by 60 percent in 2020 from 2018.

The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities had a 66 percent drop in sick leave usage in 2021 compared to 2018.

Among the other federal agencies that saw significant drops in sick leave usage for both 2020 and 2021 were the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ex-Im Bank, and the Federal Trade Commission.

FGI contends that telework options could be providing some employees “an unintended financial incentive” to “hoard sick leave while still taking sick time unofficially under the cover of maximum telework.”

FGI concludes its report by warning that this lack of accounting “can only further diminish public confidence” in the “efficacy of the government to meet its most basic responsibilities.”