BBG Watch Commentary

Government Executive LogoGovernment Executive, http://www.govexec.com/,a business news daily for federal managers and executives, is reporting after a news story first broke by BBG Watch that International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) officials are accused of mishandling contractor taxes at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting and other media outreach.

BBG programs are paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Most contract employees used by IBB work full time in government offices under the full supervision of federal managers. They produce programs for overseas audiences on behalf of the United States at low pay and without most benefits and protections of government employment.

BBG Watch reported that IBB officials are alleged to have violated IRS tax rules by employing thousands of such private contractors over the years as full-time, long-term employees but failing to withhold taxes from their salaries as they were required to do, according to IRS and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

BBG Watch also reported that the Department of State Office of Inspector General has found that International Broadcasting Bureau officials at the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors have entered into hundreds of personal services contracts without statutory authority and repeatedly violated the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Government Executive quotes BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil who did not contradict BBG Watch reports but stated that officials are addressing this issue.

“BBG says it is addressing the complex issues of contractor pay procedures and the ongoing quest for efficiency, ‘though there is a lot more to be done,’ Lynne Weil, director of communication and external affairs, told Government Executive.

“During the past several years, Weil added, the agency has taken steps to promote the interests of its contractor workforce. These include administering a feedback questionnaire that identified 16 issues to be addressed; six brown-bag lunches at which BBG managers spoke face-to-face with contractors; the setting of contractor office hours and designation of a senior staff liaison to contractors, she said.”

Critics say that these are merely cosmetic changes undertaken by some of the same IBB executives who had created the problem in the first place and that they do not address the core issue of alleged violations of law and discrimination against contract-employees in terms of their pay, benefits, rights, tax withholdings and their future employment status.

Government Executive also reported that BBG Watch blog post  asserted that IBB “officials are covering up  tension over the issue by slow-walking Freedom of Information Act requests from private parties, the press and nongovernmental organizations—and by “silencing” internal critics.

BBG Watch articles alluded to efforts to prevent former BBG member, former U.S. Ambassador Victor Ashe, from raising in public questions about irregularities at IBB, which were later documented in a to be released Office of the Inspector General audit.

READ MORE: Broadcasting Board Accused of Mishandling Contractor Taxes By Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, February 3, 2014.

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