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Down The Path Called Dysfunctional – Charges of BBG Federal Survey Fraud

FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org, Free Media Online Blog, December 22, 2009, San Francisco –

The BBG has long been considered one of the worst managed Federal agencies. The current Bush-era members of the bipartisan Board in charge of U.S. international broadcasting are expected to be replaced soon by President Obama’s nominees who now await confirmation by the U.S. Senate. (You would not know it if you open the BBG website.)

As new BBG members are getting ready to take their positions, the executives responsible for such journalistic and public relations disasters as airing of Holocaust denial propaganda on Alhurra television and discrimination against foreign-born journalists at Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (a case now pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg) have been busy making themselves look good to their soon-to-be bosses.

But rather than to improve their management style, the BBG/VOA executive staff used the well-tried method of buying votes that goes back, well, all the way to the Roman times.

“Give them bread and games and they will vote for you.”

We hasten to add that this was not an election fraud, which the last time we checked is still a felony, but a Federal survey fraud. The goal was to make the management look good in a Federal survey that measures employee satisfaction.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) relies on the accuracy and impartiality of these employee surveys to make important decisions about personnel policies. The BBG/VOA executives undermined this process not only at their own agency but for the entire Federal government. Survey results at BBG/VOA can no longer be compared to results at other U.S. government agencies which don’t engage in bribing employees to encourage them to participate.

Giving away prizes is a not-too-subtle form of influencing how employees will vote. Ironically, the same executives, who have no problem ignoring government regulations when they apply to them, have been actively engaged in firing VOA journalists for minor time-and-attendance transgressions. They treat journalists who need to work irregular hours and move around to get their stories as bureaucrats tied to their desks.

What we want to know is whether in addition to pizza, the BBG/VOA executives also provided beer. God forbid if they did, because that would also be against Federal regulations unless they granted themselves a special exemption.

If the soon-to-be active new BBG members in charge of the U.S. international broadcasting empire will not be able to change the management culture at their Agency, we suggest that they pay for regular pizza and beer parties for the BBG and VOA employees. If nothing changes under the new Board, we might as well really go back to the Roman Empire ways of keeping the masses happy.

The following commentary is from The Federalist, one of our regular bloggers who reports on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the Voice of America (VOA).

Down The Path Called Dysfunctional

Just when you thought that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the Voice of America (VOA) couldn’t become any more dysfunctional than they already are, comes the following:

The VOA Director, Dan Austin, recently issued an email regarding the results of the 2009 Human Capital Survey. This is the annual survey mandated by Congress of Federal agencies, a snapshot of how the employees of the Federal workforce feel about the agencies they work in. In odd-numbered years, the survey is conducted by each Federal agency. In even-numbered years, the survey is conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), even though some Federal agencies, including BBG/VOA contract with OPM to conduct the survey in the even-numbered years.

At the outset, Austin crows about the increased level of participation in the 2009 survey…up to 58 percent as opposed to the 35 percent in 2008. Austin goes on to make a vague reference to “improvements” in some areas, but key issues, including leadership (i.e., Austin, the BBG and the rest of the senior agency officials) remain areas of concern.

What Austin doesn’t say in his email is that senior agency leadership offered a prize for the agency element with the most participants. That prize is…

A pizza party.

A pizza party?!?

This is quite revealing of the senior VOA leadership attitude toward the Human Capital Survey and by extension, the agency’s employees.

The attitude is quite clear: the senior leadership sees the survey as a trivial, nuisance exercise and the employee workforce as if it were a group of children.

Whatever “improvements” have been claimed in Austin’s email, it is evident that even with a sophomoric attempt at “bribing” employees with a pizza party reward, the real numbers of positive direction are insignificant…and are made even more watered down when measured against the increased participation.

The heart of any survey of this kind are what are commonly referred to as “core issues;” namely, how the execution of the agency’s mission is perceived and where the employees see themselves now and in the future. In view of the increasingly bizarre behavior of its senior officials, employees should be concerned.

The Federalist

December 2009

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