Firestorm Around GSA Meeting Spreads to Incentives
By Leo Jakobson
April 5, 2012
The growing scandal over a Las Vegas meeting run by the federal General Services Administration has a new incentive angle.
Fox News reported this morning that the GSA spent $250,000 on a points-based employee recognition program called Hats Off, describing it as “a workplace incentive initiative where administration employees could garner ‘points’ for good work around the office.”
From the limited description, the program was a conventional points-based recognition program, with a catalog of merchandise and gift card awards.
Fox News’ report said the incentive program will also be subjected to scrutiny at the April 19 congressional hearing scheduled by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will look into the $820,000 GSA Western Regions Conference that resulted in the firing of two top deputies in the agency followed by the resignation of the chief administrator on Monday.
For one thing, Fox News reported that one of the commissioners whom now ex-GSA Administrator Martha Johnson fired was told by the GSA Inspector General’s office to cancel the incentive program as it began looking into the conference. The news report claimed that, instead, the commissioner increased the Hats Off program’s budget.
Melissa Van Dyke, president of the Incentive Research Foundation, questions the exact nature of the incentive program, specifically the number of GSA employees that Hats Off covered. “What the Fox News article does not tell us is how many people the Hats Off program was designed to reward and recognize,” she says.
Van Dyke explains: “If it was designed for only the 300 individuals who also attended the Las Vegas event, then the program is, in fact, well above [the average $50-to-$100 per-person allocation] in a spot rewards program. If, however, the program was for all 12,000 GSA employees, then it is arguably not an excessive allocation. To imply that all federal workers should be devoid of any type of reward and recognition for their daily work (beyond compensation) is not only unfair to those employees but in contrast with what many American businesses know creates an efficient, effective workplace culture.”
But Van Dyke had no qualms about criticizing the cost of the GSA’s 300-person, $820,000 Western Regions Conference. “If the GSA was truly spending close to $2,800 per person, this is higher than the average spend for an incentive travel program—which is often paid for out of the additional revenues generated by sales attendees—and considerably higher than the average spend on internal meetings,” she says.
The Fox News report can be viewed here
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