When bureaucracy tops the charts

In this Feb. 10 photo, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Conservatives accuse Koskinen of gross negligence, arguing he stonewalled their investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The federal bureaucracy gets a black eye from the public for the officiousness and red tape that are sometimes part of dealing with it. Think of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service and the Transportation Safety Administration.

The bureaucracy also comes under frequent fire from elected leaders in Congress, usually conservatives, who complain about its expense and lack of accountability.

But there is one group that is unmatched in its admiration for federal workers — the bureaucracy itself.

According to ratings given to federal workers in their employee reviews, an unbelievable 99 percent are doing at least a good job.

Unbelievable is right.

Nevertheless, according to data collected by the Government Accountability Office, 33.1 percent of federal employees were given an “outstanding” rating, while 27.4 percent exceed “fully successful,” and 38.8 percent of federal employees were viewed merely as “fully successful.”

Of the minuscule remainder, 0.3 percent qualified as “minimally successful,” and 0.1 percent as “unacceptable.”

Presumably, that microscopic group of “unacceptables” are the federal employees who are sent home with pay because of job-related problems.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., was highly critical of the rating system’s shortcomings, as might be expected, since he is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“Apparently the federal bureaucrats grading one another think virtually everyone who works for the government is doing a fantastic job,” Rep. Miller said. “But given the dysfunction we’ve seen throughout the federal government over the last several years, that can’t possibly be true.”

He added, “While most federal employees are dedicated and competent, everyone knows the government’s personnel system is rigged to protect those who can’t or won’t do their jobs.” Certainly, this report is evidence of that.

The GAO recommended that agencies and their employees recognize “that a rating of ‘fully successful’ is already a high bar and should be valued and rewarded and that ‘outstanding’ is a difficult level to achieve.” Or should be.

The rating system also relates to job promotions and compensation.

That compounds the outrage and demands reform. If the civil service isn’t willing to dump the rating system as an utter fraud, then Congress should take on the job.

Based on these ratings, the federal bureaucracy scores higher on the scale of excellence than Ivory Soap, which is only 99 and 44/100ths percent pure.

And that just won’t wash.