Department of State employees who also hold positions in the private sector are staying on the government payroll longer than federal law allows.
The State Department had an undisclosed number of special government employees (SGEs) who overstayed the 130-day-per-year limit for being on public and private payrolls, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Monday. SGEs are temporary federal employees who are allowed to keep their outside employment and bypass some ethics rules.
Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley requested the report. He claimed last year that Huma Abedin — one of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s closest aides — worked 244 days as a State Department SGE while also working at the Clinton Foundation and as a Teneo Holdings consultant.
Abedin worked at the State Department full time from Jan. 22, 2009, until June 3, 2012, when she received her SGE designation. She then worked as an SGE from June 3, 2012, to Feb. 1, 2013, according to Grassley.
Grassley cited Abedin as an example of how the executive branch “routinely breaches” the 130-day limit.
“Special Government Employees are supposed to offer specialized expertise temporarily that the taxpayers can’t get anywhere else,” Grassley said in a statement. “The time restriction makes clear that they’re not supposed to be paid indefinitely while working for the private sector at the same time.
“The executive branch should not do an end run around Congress and ignore the time restriction or use the designation merely to allow current federal employees to enhance their income with outside employment that might present conflicts of interest.”
GAO said State Department officials “have examples of SGEs exceeding the 130 days in one year,” but GAO didn’t investigate who, how many, or over what time period.
The GAO report focused on SGEs not serving on federal boards, who represented about 3 percent (1,138) of the federal government’s total 40,424 SGEs as of December, 2014. GAO also reviewed SGEs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Science Foundation and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Grassley has requested information from the State Department on SGEs since June, 2013, when he learned about Abedin’s special designation. The State Department has failed to answer many of his requests, some of which date as far back as three years ago. (RELATED: State Department Hid Clinton Aide’s Special Job Status, Grassley Charges)
Grassley plans to introduce legislation to clarify and enforce the 130-day limit on SGEs.
The State Department in February told The Daily Caller News Foundation it would take until December, 2016, nearly a year, to compile and release a two-page list of its SGEs.
The State Department isn’t the only department to fail in SGE accountability, GAO found.
HHS told GAO it had 609 SGEs who didn’t serve on federal boards in 2013, but only reported four to the Office of Government Ethics. HHS told GAO the 609 number was correct, but couldn’t explain the discrepancy. HHS also recorded inaccurate start dates for SGEs.
DOJ allowed SGEs to self-report the days they worked, instead of requiring a supervisor to track that data. GAO also found DOJ had no written policies guiding the use of SGEs.
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