News

IG: DOI not tracking conference spending

The Interior Department failed to accurately track its conference and could not provide actual cost information for 10 of its conferences, an Aug. 28 DOI inspector general report says. The IG looked at ten DOI conferences that exceeded $20,000 and found significant differences between estimated and actual costs, the report says.

Obama to propose 1 percent pay raise for feds

President Obama plans to raise pay for federal workers by 1 percent starting in January 2015, an Aug. 29 White House statement on the National Treasury Employees Union website says. But even with the sacrifice federal workers have made over the last few years with pay freezes, they will have to continue to endure a pay raise below the amount of private sector increase and also below the statutory formula for adjustments to the base General Schedule, Obama said in the letter to Congress.

VA looking to expand medical facilities with new doctors

The Veterans Affairs Department launched an initiative aimed at recruiting new doctors the VA and expanding access to care for veterans, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in an Aug. 29 speech to Duke University's School of Medicine. "We have taken action to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics in the short-term, but in the long-term, in order to provide timely access to care, we need to build capacity by hiring more clinicians," McDonald said.

U.S. unveils next steps in strengthening regulatory collaboration with Canada

The U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Forward Plan, which was unveiled Aug. 29, solidifies the partnership arrangements and framework among regulators from the two nations – activities that were developed through an initial plan launched in late 2011.

Issa claims DOL spent too much on agency promotions

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) blasted the Labor Department over what he calls wasteful spending on promoting the agency. Issa wants the DOL to hand over documents and information related to agency spending and claims he has information that the DOL spent $600,000 on informational elevator posters, $25,000 in entry fees for public relations contests and $100,000 to promote a book club.

Survey: Military families anxious over job security, budget cuts

Nearly half of middle-class military families are worried about their job and financial security, a recently released survey by First Command Financial Services says. About 46 percent of military families making at least $50,000 a year said they were concerned about job security.

FTC warns DC residents to look out for phone scammers

The Federal Trade Commission is warning D.C. residents that callers claiming to be from the FTC or Internal Revenue Service could actually be scammers. "Even if your phone's caller ID says 'FTC' or 'IRS,' or shows Washington, DC's '202' area code, it could still be a scam. Scammers know how to show fake information on caller ID," an Aug. 27 FTC statement says.

CBO: Deficit to rise then drop off in coming fiscal years

The Congressional Budget Office raised its projection for this fiscal year's federal deficit to $506 billion--up about $14 billion from its last project in April. The deficit projection panned out much better than previous years for President Obama. Last year's deficit came in at $680 billion, while in 2009 it ended up being about $1.1 trillion.

GAO: GSA needs to better target buildings used for construction swaps

The General Services Administration needs to better target the buildings it uses in swap-construction exchanges, a recently released July 24 Government Accountability Office report. GSA has completed two swap-construction exchanges in which the agency exchanges title to federal property for constructed assets or construction services, such as renovation work, the report says.

IG: EPA losing millions by not utilizing strategic sourcing

The Environmental Protection Agency has been slow to take up strategic sourcing as a contracting strategy even though it could save the agency tens of millions of dollars, an Aug. 26 EPA inspector general report says. The Office of Management and Budget issued memo expressing the need for agencies to leverage strategic sourcing to the maximum extent possible.

Obama announces more VA programs to address vet healthcare

At an American Legion convention speech in North Carolina, President Obama announced Veterans Affairs Department reforms including making it easier for veterans to transition from military healthcare to the VA health system. Obama announced a new Defense Department $79 million increase in funding for a program aimed at using brain chips to treat post traumatic stress disorder, in the Aug. 26 speech.

Audit: USPS still lacks adequate guidelines to help improve postal district operations

An internal audit found that revised guidelines to help a U.S. Postal Service initiative increase efficiencies in each postal district by centralizing delivery operations are still insufficient.

GSA looking for developers to take over DOT facility in exchange for construction

The General Services Administration is looking for information on transforming a Transportation Department building into a state-of-the-art facility for transportation research, an Aug. 26 GSA statement says. The agency issued a Request for Information seeking creative ideas from the real estate development community to redevelop the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center property in Cambridge, Mass.

McDonald: VA leaders didn't take ownership of problems

Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Robert McDonald continued his apology tour telling a convention of disabled veterans that VA leadership failed to take responsibility for the recent patient scheduling controversy. McDonald said VA leaders failed to take ownership of the problems facing their facilities and employees, failed to identify shortfalls in resources and take action to obtain the additional resources they needed and failed to quash the culture of self-protection and retaliation.

OPM: Agencies should remove telework barriers

The Office of Personnel Management wants to make it easier for federal workers to telework, an Aug. 22 OPM memo says. Agencies should remove barriers or limitations that unnecessarily restrict federal workers from using existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs, the memo says.

Audit: NHTSA needs more effective oversight of traffic safety program, grants

While states are generally complying with key federal requirements for administering highway safety program funds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still needs to shore up some gaps in its oversight to make the program more effective, an Aug. 21 internal audit found.

OFPP, OSTP release guide to innovative acquisition

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a guide to acquisition innovations to better help contracting officers get creative under tight budgets. The first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies--an evolving document--describes a number of ways federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar under existing laws and regulations, an Aug. 21 blog post says.

TIGTA: IRS not capturing all ACA medical device taxes

The Internal Revenue Service should develop a better compliance strategy for the Affordable Care Act's medical device tax to make sure businesses pay it, a recently released Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report says. The ACA includes a 2.3 percent tax percent of the sales price for medical devices sold beginning Jan. 1, 2013. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated revenues from the medical device excise tax of $20 billion for fiscal years 2013 through 2019, the report says.

Gallup: Bipartisan agreement on dysfunctional government

Government dysfunction came in as one of the biggest problems facing the country for both Democrats and Republicans in an Aug. 22 Gallup poll. About 16 percent of Democrats said a dysfunctional government was the most important problem facing America--that was the top vote getter, the poll says. About 20 percent of Republicans said the same thing, although government dysfunction ranked second for them behind immigration, which garnered 22 percent.

GAO: State staffing reductions allow for more food stamp fraud

As federal food stamp beneficiaries increase, state-based offices investigating program fraud are being reduced, making it difficult to combat the abuse, an Aug. 21 Government Accountability Office report says. In fiscal year 2013, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provided about 47 million people with $76 billion in benefits, the report says.