Department of the Interior officials were paid $6 million while on extended administrative leave—often while under investigation for misconduct—without documented approval, a government watchdog reported Wednesday.
The $6 million went to 242 department employees on administrative leave for at least 45 days between January 2013 and July 2016, the agency’s inspector general reported.
“[The Department of Interior] did not sufficiently document decisions made regarding the use of extended administrative leave, resulting in inefficient management and oversight,” the report said.
“If [Interior Department] management does not appropriately maintain documentation … [the department] cannot demonstrate that it has properly managed its use of extended administrative leave or that it has not wasted taxpayers dollars by paying employees not to work.”
Specifically, Interior Department officials didn’t document approvals for extended leave, alternatives considered, nor notifications sent to employees placed on extended leave.
Of the 30 employees the inspector general sampled, 22 “were put on administrative leave for matters related to misconduct allegations,” the report said. Similarly, personnel matters, including misconduct investigations, are the most common reason for extended administrative leave, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Employees are left on administrative leave for significant amounts of time for a variety of, and often combining, factors, such as length investigations and legal process, as well as overall “inefficient agency processes,” the report said. “While [the Interior Department] cannot entirely avoid using extended administrative leave due to ongoing investigations and certain legal requirements, it can better manage its use.”
The National Park Service spent the most on administrative leave among Department of Interior agencies, with 69 employees on leave for nearly 62,000 hours at a cost of more than $2 million. Indian Affairs put the greatest number of employees on administrative leave at 83, for a total of nearly 55,000 hours, costing $1.8 million.
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