Salary data about federal employees is being hidden. Congress is not pleased

Kate Irby, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The government's personnel agency is hiding information about federal employees' bonuses, overtime and cost of living adjustments. A powerful House committee wants to know why.

Open the Books, a government watchdog group, has for the past 11 years sought the names, titles, agencies, salaries and bonus information for all federal employees. It has received much of the data it sought and then has posted the information publicly.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, as well as other committee members from both parties, sent a letter this week to Office of Personnel Management acting Director Kathleen McGettigan demanding information on the withheld data.

"Either OPM has been in error for the last 11 years or it is now," the letter reads. "The American taxpayers have a right to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent to the maximum extent practicable."

The oversight committee letter demands the requested information by March 19 with a briefing to follow.

An OPM spokesperson told McClatchy that it has not increased the number of redactions of base salaries from previous years. It has only excluded certain adjusted base salaries this time "to prevent the identities and duty stations of those who work in sensitive occupations or work for security agencies from being revealed."

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The base salary is a set amount based on an employee's position and level of education. The adjusted salary incorporates other pay such as bonuses, overtime and what OPM refers to as the "locality pay rate," an additional amount that depends on where the employee works.

For example, in 2018 an employee in the Washington, D.C., area is paid 28.2 percent more than the base salary, while an employee in the Raleigh area is paid 19.5 percent over the base salary.

"What OPM intends to do from now on, is release base salary information for those employees whose adjusted base salaries are protected from release, with a better explanation of the reasoning," the spokesperson said.

While the government traditionally hides some employee information -- about 3,500 positions in the 2016 request -- the new redactions are far more extensive.


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