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Time and attendance fraud is relatively uncommon in most federal agencies. Agencies tracked fewer than 350 reported investigations of time and attendance fraud over the last five years. But the Government Accountability Office says not all agencies have been tracking it consistently, and not all agencies investigate fraud allegations. The Commerce and Justice Departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA initiated the most investigations of time and attendance fraud in the last five years.
Federal contractor employees who get paid by the hour will see a small increase in their pay in 2021. The Labor Department issued a notice that will require vendors who provide services like food service or janitorial to raise the minimum wage to $10.95 per hour from $10.80 per hour in 2020. Labor says the increase is based on the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers or CPI-W.
Most Thrift Savings Plan funds saw modest increases during the month of August. The S-fund was top performer for the fifth month in a row. The mostly stable G-fund continued to drop slowly, though it hasn’t quite fallen into the red yet. The F-fund is the only one that did fall into the negatives, though that’s not unusual. It’s fluctuated regularly over the last year. And the Lifecycle funds, new and old, continued to perform well. (Federal News Network)
With the Postal Service under scrutiny leading up to this November’s election, its inspector general says the agency largely kept up with the volume of mail-in ballots it received during this year’s primary election season. USPS delivered more than 94% of election and political mail on-time between April and June. That’s about a 2% decline from what auditors found in the 2018 election. The IG urges state and local officials to send ballots and election materials at least 15 days out from the election to ensure ballots are received and counted on time. (Federal News Network)
The Interior Department was half accurate, half misleading in its conversations with Congress about the Bureau of Land Management relocation. Interior’s inspector general says the department long planned to move BLM employees to a new facility. Plans date back to the Obama administration. But concerns over the cost of renewing BLM’s existing lease were never the primary motivating factor. The IG says Interior misled Congress when it said it had to move BLM employees to Colorado and other western states because the cost of renewing its existing lease would exceed standard rates. Grand Junction, Colorado became the official BLM headquarters last month. (Federal News Network)
TSA expanded the test of a no-touch, no human encounter way of clearing passengers trying to board airliners. The self-service system uses technology capable of looking at a live face and determining whether it matches the photo on his or her ID, and matches it to flight manifest information. An officer reviews the results from behind a plastic shield. TSA tested the system last year in Las Vegas. Now, following some tweaks, a test is running at Reagan National Airport.
Multiple federal employee organizations are stewing over the Trump administration’s upcoming payroll tax deferral plans for the workforce. The National Treasury Employees Union says the rollout is confusing and chaotic. The union says federal employees deserve information on how the upcoming deferral will impact their tax obligations later. NTEU says its request to give federal employees the chance to opt out of the payroll tax deferral has fallen on deaf ears.* The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association is urging its members to start saving now for higher tax bills next year.
The IRS says it’ll accept digital signatures on forms that can’t be filed electronically, but National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins says the agency should use that as a jumping off point to rethink taxpayer services more broadly. Collins says the IRS should make its online services more user-friendly, and offer videoconferencing options to taxpayers. As the agency looks to modernize its taxpayer experience, Collins also urges the IRS to provide a high level of service for people who choose to seek help over the phone or in-person.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Army beat the clock in getting two major acquisition programs to award. HHS hired Verizon to modernize and consolidate its networks under a task order that could be worth $2.5 billion. HHS made the largest award to date under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions or EIS contract. Meanwhile, the Army chose 31 vendors for a spot on the IT Enterprise Solutions or ITES software vehicle. ITES-SW has a $13 billion ceiling over 10 years and lets all of DoD buy commercial software and related services more easily.
The Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center might change the way it buys weapons. The center is looking into adopting a consortium-based model for developing and testing artificial intelligence technologies. JAIC would partner with a group of AI companies, startups and academic institutions. The acquisition strategy would allow the Pentagon to use faster procurement strategies that do not follow the usual federal regulations. JAIC wants authorization to award those types of contracts by the end of the year.
The new Space Development Agency awarded a contract to build a new orbital capability. The recently created space acquisition arm of the military awarded nearly $300 million in contracts to build 20 satellites. Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems’ satellites will build the first layer of space sensors that connect to weapons on the ground. The systems will be the main unifying truss for the Joint All-Domain Command and Control program, which unifies air, sea, space, cyber and air weapons by sharing data and decision making. Work on the satellites is expected to start in the next month.