The Bureau of Prisons is paying retention incentives to keep employees in high-demand positions but has no strategic plan for using them and has not evaluated their usefulness, according to a GAO report.

The bureau does have internal controls to help ensure that certain requirements are met before incentives are paid–total amounts paid have ranged from about $11 million to $14 million annually in recent years–but they are used mainly as a response to short-term staffing situations rather than proactively addressing future staffing needs, GAO said.

One result, it said, is that almost all of the retention incentive payments have been concentrated in only a few occupations and facilities.

“Including human capital goals and strategies in BOP’s human capital plan would create a roadmap so the agency could move from being reactive to its current workforce needs to being strategic in trying to achieve its long-term workforce goals. Additionally BOP has not evaluated the effectiveness of its use of retention incentives in retaining staff. As a result, BOP does not know whether retention incentives have contributed to employees’ retention in relation to other incentives used by BOP,” GAO said.

“Planning for and evaluating the use of retention incentives could help BOP better determine if these incentives are an efficient and effective means by which to retain staff,” it said, adding that the agency agreed with its recommendations.