CAO Spent $2.9 Million for Temps

Posted June 15, 2010 at 6:27pm

Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard spends about $2.9 million each year on temporary staffers to work on everything from the House payroll to human resources.

The news comes amid a House Inspector General evaluation of the CAO’s payroll, benefits and finance divisions after some Member offices complained of overdue reimbursements and high turnover in the office. Several sources have pointed to high numbers of employees who leave after a short period. For example, the Payroll and Benefits Office — which handles the salaries and benefits for every Member and committee office — has 15 temporary employees out of a total of 43.

But CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said the temporary employees are used for “work force augmentation purposes” that by definition are short-lived.

“These employees are hired to support the many cyclical projects the operations of the House require,” he said in an e-mail Tuesday. “Many of these employees possess specific skills or knowledge that are often needed only until the completion of a particular project or for a particular period of time.”

Ventura also emphasized that $2.9 million is only 2.2 percent of the CAO’s 2010 budget of about $130 million. It’s also more than 4 percent of the office’s personnel budget of almost $64 million.

But it’s unclear how much of the $2.9 million each year is reported to the House Administration Committee, which oversees the CAO. Currently, the CAO only has to report payments exceeding $70,000 and gain approval for payments of more than $350,000. But a database assembled by the Sunlight Foundation in cooperation with Roll Call shows that for the second half of 2009, most of the individual payments to temporary staffing agencies were less than $10,000.

House Administration ranking member Dan Lungren said the high total calls into question such reporting requirements and the fact that Beard requested to double the thresholds earlier this year. Instead, the committee raised them 40 percent; in 2009, the reporting requirement was $50,000 and the approval threshold $250,000.

In a statement, the California Republican said he has requested additional information from Beard on the “use and cost of temporary agencies.”

“These figures seem unusually high and extremely troubling, especially in light of the CAO’s recent request to double its procurement threshold and eliminate some of its notification requirements,” Lungren said in a statement. “In fact, this suggests that we need even more stringent requirements.”

But Kyle Anderson, spokesman for House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.), pointed out that sometimes temporary employees are unavoidable.

“Chairman Brady strongly supports providing full time employment opportunities for American families,” he said in an e-mail. “He also understands that the CAO has to maintain a degree of flexibility and the ability to adjust to fluctuating workloads.”

Indeed, the degree of busyness in the CAO often depends on the Congressional schedule. When a new Congress begins, for example, more employees are often needed to help in the transition, which includes placing new Members in offices and setting up their payrolls.

Furthermore, some of the CAO’s positions can be hard to immediately fill — such as those in Payroll and Benefits — and temporary employees sometimes become full-time employees.

Ventura said the breakdown of temporary employees by CAO division was not immediately available. But the Sunlight database, which is compiled from the House’s quarterly Statement of Disbursements for the second half of 2009, shows that the CAO spent more than $1.5 million to pay four temporary staffing agencies.

The vast majority of the money went to Woodside Temporaries, which was paid more than $1.3 million for offices such as CAO Operations Management, Finance and Human Resources.

More than $580,000 was spent on temporary employees for the Office of Finance, while more than $470,000 was spent on behalf of CAO Operations Management. Smaller amounts were spent for the House Child Care Center and House Technical Support.