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December 8 2015

Proposed Legislation Would Make Federal Bureaucracies Less Fireproof

Patrice J. Lee

Nearly daily are headlines about federal agency executives who abuse the access, power, and resources at their disposal for their avarice, partisan leanings, or personal gain.

When they get caught they play cat-and-mouse games of hiding and destroying evidence, stalling and torpedoing investigations, and dodging questions into their misbehavior. All the while, they continue to receive their paychecks. From Lois Lerner at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to “Thelma and Louise” at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there is no shortage of such cases.

Leaders of these agencies claim that their hands are tied because the process to get them booted out is uncertain and protracted, delayed by repeals and legal maneuvers.

Concerned about this,  a group of conservatives in Congress have introduced new legislation that grants the IRS commissioner new authority to fire high-ranking employees for misconduct or poor performance and not just committing actual crimes.

They define misconduct to include  "neglect of duty, malfeasance, or failure to accept a directed reassignment or to accompany a position in a transfer of function." In theory that could be threatening to audit someone for personal or partisan gain, "losing" records,  and failing to file timely tax returns. Under these expanded rules, Lois Lerner might have been booted out rather than taking her own time for a resignation that came on her terms. 

So far, no one at the IRS has been held accountable for targeting conservative groups of with which Lerner has been associated. Similar legislation introduced earlier this fall would bar IRS tax workers who cheat on their own taxes from receiving a bonus.

The Hill reports:

“For too long the American people have been told there was nothing the IRS Commissioner could do to hold IRS employees who targeted conservative and religious organizations accountable for their actions,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of the bill's sponsors, said in a news release. “That’s not good enough for the American people and that’s not good enough for me, and that’s why I’m pleased to join my colleagues to introduce legislation making it easier to fire poorly performing senior executives at the IRS." 

The IRS commissioner has some authority currently to fire employees for certain types of misconduct, but the administration hasn't fired anyone who targeted taxpayers based on their political beliefs because it has claimed that only mismanagement occurred, rather than a crime, according to the release.  

Under the bill, the commissioner would have the clear ability to remove a senior executive in the agency if the employee's performance or misconduct warrants it, with misconduct

According to Senate press release:

“It’s extremely troubling that these problems have persisted for so long,” said Sen. Burr. “IRS employees must be held accountable for misconduct. Under the current policy, high ranking IRS officials can cheat on their taxes, lie to Congress, even threaten to audit people for personal gain – all without risking their six figure government salaries. This misconduct is absolutely unacceptable and I am confident we will put a stop to it. The American people deserve better.”

This legislation applies to the highest ranking IRS employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES). Actionable examples of misconduct include but are not limited to: threatening to audit someone for personal gain, conducting a seizure without approval, assaulting, harassing or violating the civil rights of a taxpayer or a coworker, lying under oath, falsifying or destroying records, concealing information from Congress, underreporting income, and failing to file a tax return on time.  The IRS Accountability Act has been endorsed by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). 

It’s unfortunate that some progressives refuse to admit that too many of our fireproof federal agencies are rife with corruption, mismanagement, and abuse. The people whom we pay to steward our public resources abuse them for their gain. This costs the taxpayer money. In the case of our veterans who languished on manipulated wait lists, the costs were their health and their lives.

We deserve better. The ability to fire people promptly would do more to clean up the toxic environments in some of the federal agencies then any HR training.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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