Federal Manager's Daily Report

MSPB Warns of Impact on Federal Employees of Working through Pandemic

The IG’s office at the Justice Department has said that both the Coronavirus and use of money appropriated to fight it present new management challenges for the department.

The most immediate challenges include preventing the spread of the virus among its roughly 170,000 federal inmates and 61,000 detainees in Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshals Service custody, operating immigration courts in a manner that minimizes the risk to participants, and overseeing nearly $1 billion being disbursed by DoJ to fund state, local, and tribal efforts to combat COVID-19, it said, “all while also protecting the health and safety of the tens of thousands of employees who oversee these particular operations.”

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For the Bureau of Prisons, main challenges include “the safety and welfare of the approximately 40,000 staff and contract employees who work in BOP institutions, contract prisons, and residential reentry centers—as well as the thousands who oversee USMS detainees in state, local, tribal, and contract detention centers. The most immediate and pressing challenges include: securing personal protective equipment (PPE); identifying, accessing, and implementing effective testing protocols; providing access to quality medical care for those in custody; transferring inmates and detainees to and from facilities; and social distancing, screening, quarantining, and otherwise mitigating the risks presented by the pandemic.”

The Executive Office of Immigration Review, which runs immigration courts, similarly “has experienced challenges such as securing PPE for its staff and a lack of remote options to perform some work necessary to ongoing operations. EOIR must also balance mitigating health risks at its court facilities while ensuring the rights of individuals subject to immigration court proceedings.”

Ensuring that supplemental funding “reaches its intended recipients quickly and efficiently is paramount” but doing so “while in an emergency posture, is a challenging undertaking” for the Office of Justice Programs, it said. “These challenges include the increased risk of fraud and misuse or waste of program funding.”

“Bad actors have launched multiple fraud schemes specifically targeting COVID-19 aid, with some illicit ploys targeting OJP award recipients, specifically. Known schemes include the sale of ineffective or unsafe treatment options and non-delivery of needed PPE, both of which may challenge effective grant implementation and even risk the lives of U.S. citizens,” it said.

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