BBG Watch Commentary
While U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) worldwide news operation has become defunct and fails to report even news about Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements on Ukraine as well as about statements by key U.S. Senators, VOA executives are busy putting together a Bingo Game Night at their Federal building in Washington, DC.
Their failure to respect VOA Charter, U.S. Public Law 94-350 which says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies,” has been well documented by BBG Watch and others.
We have to wonder what other laws and federal regulations these VOA government executives are ignoring? The poster says that the bingo game is not sponsored by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and that BBG is not liable for any injuries that may result from participation in this event. Why is it being held? Who paid for the time VOA and other government managers spent on organizing a bingo game on federal property and for the bingo poster they produced? Did they do it all during their free time and this bingo game will cost U.S. taxpayers nothing? That’s not very likely.
They should be paying attention to their collapsing news operation instead of wasting taxpayers’ money and ruining Voice of America’s once splendid reputation for efficient news reporting to countries around the world. Sources among VOA employees told BBG Watch that the vast majority of them disapprove of senior executives, their management style, and their news programming policies. They would like the Broadcasting Board of Governors to put an end to abuses of power, news reporting failures due to bad management, and waste of U.S. taxpayers money.
The VOA Ukrainian Service journalists have been working hard producing and delivering news in Ukrainian, but even they cannot do everything that should be done with the limited resources they have been given while money is being wasted by senior executives right and left. Many other media freedom deprived countries to which VOA directs its programs simply do not get much news from VOA about strong U.S. reactions to dramatic developments in Ukraine. VOA journalists feel helpless.
This is no time for VOA executives and the rest of the agency’s managers at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) to play games. It is time for the oversight Broadcasting Board of Governors to put an end to mismanagement, waste and abuse at the Voice of America and help VOA employees in doing their important job.
The Federalist, one of our regular contributors, has these comments.
International Broadcasting Bureau – The Standard for Dysfunctional and Defunct in the US Government -Information War Lost: Playing Games
by The Federalist
We can’t make this kind of stuff up. Read on.
As readers know by now, US Government international broadcasting has been labeled “dysfunctional and defunct” by former Secretary of State Clinton.
As our readers also know, this agency has been routinely, regularly and always at/or near the bottom of Federal agencies in the US Government’s employee job satisfaction surveys.
We also know that this agency has been labeled one of the worst places to work in the Federal Government and one of the worst organizations in the Federal Government.
In so many words, the place stinks.
It can’t carry out its mission and wastes over $700-million dollars a year in American taxpayer money in being institutionally dysfunctional and defunct.
You would think that someone inside the Cohen Building would be seriously concerned with how this agency took the slippery and swift slope to being in the corrosive state it is.
You would think someone would come up with an action plan to stop the implosion, damage and destruction this agency routinely generates on an hourly basis.
Apparently, this is not the case. The response to this horrid state of affairs is:
Bingo Night! Monday, January 27, 4:30-7:00PM!
A poster has been prominently displayed announcing the event, to be held in the Voice of America (VOA) Briefing Room!
At least we now know that the Briefing Room is being used for something.
This is wrong on so many levels.
In many jurisdictions, bingo is considered to be a form of gambling and has to be regulated. We don’t know what steps the agency has taken to comply with applicable law, rule and regulation for conducting a gaming activity, particularly a gaming activity on Federal property.
Even if there is some way for the agency to satisfy applicable law, rule and regulation to pull this off, the appearance and display of this kind of activity sends a very bad message, the primary one being that no one is taking the agency mission seriously: managers and employees alike.
More importantly, no one is taking the agency’s failures seriously: no mission effectiveness, no message resonance and certainly no strategic plan.
Do Members of Congress know that this kind of activity is taking place inside a Federal building?
Who is the jackass inside the Cohen Building in Washington, DC, where both IBB and VOA have their offices, who approved this activity?
Since the agency supposedly operates on a 24/7 basis, are employees using work time to participate in this activity?
For those of us who believe professional standards are important – and desperately absent inside the Cohen Building – this serves as a perfect example that this agency needs to be put out of business.
Are members of the bipartisan oversight Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) aware of this activity?
How can they be taken seriously and ask Congress for more money when this kind of activity is taking place under their noses?
Maybe this is something some yahoo on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building thinks will improve morale.
You have got to be kidding.
It’s right up there with cosmetic classes, ice cream socials and wine tasting events, some on and some off the agency’s premises with limited employee participation.
This is a middle finger salute to those who believe that this agency requires a higher standard for leadership and accountability.
For those who monitor this agency in China, Russia, Ukraine and Iran this is all you need to know. This agency is no longer serious about international broadcasting and is no longer competitive with other international broadcasters.
The priority for some people inside the Cohen Building is gaming activities in the VOA Briefing Room.
It is unfortunate that Professor Martha Bayles of Boston College has already completed her book on the demise of US public diplomacy. This would have served well as a stark example of the dysfunction that permeates the environment of the Cohen Building.
No matter, we’ll have our editor send her a complimentary copy of this commentary. She can speak to this matter while she is on her current book tour.
What used to be US Government international broadcasting has turned into an inside-the-Cohen-Building game where the staff now plays at being an international provider of news and information.
This US Government agency bears no resemblance to the professionally focused operations of the Russians and their mafia in Ukraine, the Chinese, the Iranians and others.
US Government international broadcasting has become the equivalent of a Fellini movie – an exercise in the absurd.
We wonder if this is what new BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell thinks is an appropriate way of rehabilitating the agency.
We hope not.
As we laid out in a recent commentary, the agency is dead. We do not need to be spending large amounts of American taxpayer money on something that is dead. Nor do we need to spend American taxpayer money on managers or employees who facilitate the agency being dead and mission ineffective by engaging in this kind of inappropriate activity inside a Federal agency.
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Application of the Standards of Conduct to Raffles and Games-of-Chance Held on Government Property
United States Office of Government Ethics
Letter to an Employee dated August 9, 1991
You have asked whether a raffle may be held on Government property, in a situation where the proceeds will be donated to a charitable organization or to an employee welfare and recreation association. As I understand it, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has advised you that this type of activity is prohibited by Chapter 735, subchapter 2-8 of the Federal Personnel Manual.
There are several regulatory provisions concerning gambling or fundraising activities on Federal property. First, regulations promulgated by the General Services Administration (GSA) generally bar anyone from participating in games for money or personal property, or other gambling activities, while on any property controlled by GSA. See 41 C.F.R. § 101-20.306. This regulation applies not only to Federal employees, but also to members of the public while they are on GSA-controlled property.
Additionally, the Government-wide Standards of Conduct published at 5 C.F.R. Part 735 prohibit Federal employees from participating “in any gambling activity including the operation of a gambling device, in conducting a lottery or a pool, in a game for money or property, or in selling or purchasing a numbers slip or ticket” while on Government-owned or leased property or while on Government duty. 5 C.F.R. § 735.208. However, the regulation excludes activities which an employee may undertake as part of law enforcement duties, or those which are permissible under section 3 of Executive Order 10927 and similar agency approved activities. Id. This provision mirrors the language of the provision in Chapter 735 of the Federal Personnel Manual to which you were referred by OPM. Executive Order 10927 has been revoked and superseded by Executive Order 12353 on Charitable Fundraising. This latter Executive Order has been implemented by 5 C.F.R. Part 950.
When read together, these authorities clearly prohibit gambling and similar activities (such as football pools) undertaken by individual employees while on official duty or on Government property. However, as I understand your question, you wish to know whether these prohibitions also are applicable to employees who are acting on behalf of an agency or an organization which represents employees. In particular, you question whether the relevant provisions would restrict an agency or a group of employees from conducting a raffle for the benefit of a worthwhile charitable organization or an employee benefit organization.
Executive Order 12353, as amended, authorizes Federal agencies to conduct fundraising for charitable organizations by means of on-the-job solicitations. This fundraising, known as the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), is governed by criteria established by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management at 5 C.F.R. Part 950. Consistent with the provisions of the Executive Order, the implementing regulations state that “[t]he CFC is the only authorized charitable fund-raising drive in the Federal workplace. . . . No other fund-raising drive may be conducted in the Federal workplace without the express written permission of the Director [of OPM] . . . .” 5 C.F.R. § 950.102(a). Moreover, these rules explicitly bar agencies from conducting raffles, lotteries, bake sales and similar events as part of the CFC fundraising effort. Id. at § 950.602.
Stephen D. Potts