Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa questioned the Biden administration over its telework policy, citing instances where employees working from home took bubble baths and played golf while on the clock.
In a letter sent to all government agencies, Ernst cited a media account of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who attended a staff meeting while taking a bubble bath. Ernst also cited the case involving an employee with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) who received $25,000 while spending over 730 hours at the golf course or happy hours, according to an August 2015 report by the inspector general’s office of the Commerce Department.
“It’s not fair to let the responsibilities of running an agency—and the country—fall on the shoulders of the hardworking public servants who are showing up while others are out golfing on the taxpayer’s dime,” Ernst said in a statement. “Frustrated Americans are being put on hold while too many federal employees are phoning it in. I’m calling out federal employees who refuse to answer the call of duty to return to work on behalf of taxpayers, veterans, seniors, and our great nation. It’s time to get back to work.”
A follow-up review by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General revealed over 288,000 “unsupported hours” of work that were tied to $18.3 million of waste.
Ernst cited unanswered calls to the VA by veterans seeking mental health care, delays when people requested passport assistance from the State Department and long wait times and busy messages for people calling the Social Security Administration.
Ernst also questioned the spending on office space, noting that a Government Accountability Office report released July 13 stated that 75% of office space was not being utilized.
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