SEPTEMBER 09, 2013
Citing documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, a group of United States Senators has launched an investigation into the Obama administration’s plan to skirt normal government hiring procedures to enlist 1,814 highly-paid, top-level administrators to expedite the president’s healthcare law.
In late July JW obtained internal documents outlining the secret arrangement granting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to cast aside normal government hiring protocol to allow a high-level hiring surge on the day Obamacare passed. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency responsible for recruiting and hiring the federal workforce, gave HHS extraordinary “direct-hire appointing authority,” in order to bypass normal channels and “hire quickly” to execute Obama’s healthcare reform directive, according to the documents obtained by JW.
In all, HHS was granted permission to utilize what is known as a “valuable human capital recruitment tool” to enlist 1,814 top-level government employees making annual taxpayer-funded salaries between $70,000 and $130,000. More than 1,100 of the new employees would start at the higher pay scale of nearly $100,000 annually, the documents reveal. JW’s investigation into this scandal is ongoing, but now six United States senators are looking into the matter.
In a letter sent today to the acting director of OPM, the senators are demanding answers about the agency’s decision to grant HHS “direct hire authority” after the passage of Obamacare, which is officially known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The lawmakers point out that direct-hire authority is a legal authority that OPM can give federal agencies for filling vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists.
In this case, the special hiring authority was only granted temporarily for six months to fill 1,800 “mission critical positions” that were “necessary for implementing the health care law,” according to the senators. Under that formula HHS would have had to hire 10 individuals per day during that period, the senators write. The pace of hiring that would be required for HHS to fill each of those “critical needs” is incredible, the letter says. The senators want to know if every single “critical need” position was filled before the authority terminated and they want a list of when each position was filled.
The lawmakers also want to know if individuals hired to fill “critical need” positions were properly vetted with background checks and if they were granted security clearances of any kind. They’re also requesting information on how the jobs were advertised to make the public aware that the government positions were being filled. “What methods did OPM or HHS use to identify candidates for the “critical need” positions?” The senators—Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, Michael Enzi, Charles Grassley, Kelly Ayotte and John Thune—ask for a “full and timely response” in 30 days.
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