International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard M. LoboThe Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees are both annoyed and amused by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard Lobo’s memo in which he justifies bonuses paid to BBG executives as being in line with awards received by executives employed by other federal agencies. As some employees point out, there is a problem with the logic of Lobo’s line of reasoning. The BBG is a federal agency which manages U.S. international broadcasting, including the Voice of America. The Board has eight members (four Democrats and four Republicans) plus Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lobo was appointed by President Obama to be in charge of administrative and technical operations for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. BBGWatch.com, which reported this story, is an independent website run by former and current BBG employees.

Since he is a leader of the agency rated by employees as one of the worst managed within the federal bureaucracy, BBG executives should not receive bonuses slightly below the average for the entire federal government. Their bonuses should be zero or near zero.

Average bonuses should go to officials in charge of agencies with average leadership ratings and the highest to the heads of the best managed government offices.

In the most recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) employee satisfaction survey, officially known as the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the Broadcasting Board of Governors received the following scores:
 
• 33rd of 37 in job satisfaction;
 
• 35th of 37 on results-oriented performance culture;
 
• 36th of 37 on talent management; and,
 
• 37th of 37 on leadership and knowledgeable management.  Dead last!

Richard Lobo’s agency has the worst leadership rating. Not to mention the fact that the executives who got these high bonuses wanted to end Voice of America radio and TV broadcasts to China and fire 45 VOA China Branch journalists just as the Chinese regime was intensifying Internet censorship and cracking down on dissent in response to the Jasmine Revolution. Only an intervention by the U.S. Congress put a stop to their plan. For that fiasco alone, Lobo and the rest of the BBG and VOA executives should have submitted their resignations to the Board. Instead, they gave themselves bonuses, some as high as $10,000 on top of their $150,000-plus annual salaries and generous federal government employment benefits. The same executives also developed the strategic plan which calls for the merger of the surrogate broadcasters into a large corporate bureaucracy and for de-federalizing VOA and Radio and TV Marti. At least one Broadcasting Board of Governors member, former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe, has been calling for major reforms at the BBG to improve employee morale.

For the reaction to this story see: “FedSmith.com links to Lobo-bonuses story, offers salary search.”

Here are some of the comments to Lobo’s memo, including a very funny parody from Jane (not a real name), sent to BBGWatch.com.

Yeah, yeah, yeah  . . . we all understand that every government agency hands these out, and we know about limitations on SES — but for them to dish those out in an atmosphere where the “rank and file” are facing potential job loss and the psychological traumatic effects that we have been seeing is just inexcusable.

Defending the indefensible.  Lobo is justifying handing out bonuses to the senior management of the agency based on what is done in the rest of the government.  That’s the only way he can justify handing out the bonuses.  He barely touches on the employee survey.  To an outside observer, taking into consideration the agency’s record in the surveys, these bonuses can be seen as rewarding senior agency officials for creating “one of the worst organizations in the Federal Government.”

This one is from Jane.

Comment: The following is IBB Director Richard Lobo’s response to comments submitted by Carolyn Weaver and Faith Lapidus on the topic of cash awards for BBG Senior Executive Service (SES) members.  

We have received several questions from readers about cash awards given to BBG Senior Executive Service (SES) members in 2010 and 2011.   Currently, there are three SES members on the BBG staff; seven in IBB, five in VOA and one in OCB.

Ladies:

It is important for you, Carolyn and Faith, to understand that we, at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, are very fortunate to benefit from the firm of Lake Woebegone Management Recruiters, a firm that specializes in placing only above-average, if not extraordinary, talent with government agencies.  Operating out of a picturesque, Lutheran-European based community in northern Minnesota; Lake Woebegone Management Recruiters is virtually incapable of recommending an SES employment candidate that could, in theory, perform in a sub-par manner. These SES members are not only assigned the highest level of responsibility for carrying out our mission, they can also, due to their northern climate backgrounds, drive to work during Washington’s increasing frequent winter blizzards. Of course, I know, as I’m sure you know, that none of them were called upon to demonstrate this skill in the snowmageddon of 2009, but those days, you must understand, did not, given their extraordinary Minnesota snow-driving skills, appear to them to be an actual climate emergency.

Now, under the current system, SES members are ineligible for automatic annual pay adjustments; within-grade increases (WGIS); and quality step increases (QSIs).   Also, SES members are not eligible for promotions, i.e., salary increases automatically tied to increases in responsibilities. Do you understand? They don’t get automatic raises!! They are, instead, for all practical measurements, subjected to the unfair whims of the free market, their paychecks are tied to performance and to their contribution to the agency’s mission. Oh, sweet girls, apply some logic, if they are, by definition, above average, if not extraordinary, then, of course, they must all receive performance awards. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if one of them were, in theory, to be singled out as “simply average” (i.e. deserving of salary, but no more) or, unthinkably, “below-average?” I think you well understand this scenario would, not only, endanger our contract with the Lake Woebegone

Management Recruiters (imagine the offense they would take?) but would create an environment of uncertainty, a rudderless ship, if you will, our agency, adrift, our employees fearful, handicapped, as all would assume, by a merely “average” leadership.

No, this cannot be. So, to allay your motherly fears, (I mean, ladies, we cannot all be mommies, cutting equal slices of the cake, life is not always fair!) I present to you the major agency accomplishments during the past two years: the completion of a comprehensive year-long strategic review and a resulting strategic plan for international broadcasting. Emails flew! Division Directors typed with a here-to-for unknown fervor! Conference rooms were booked. Teleconferencing, I mean, actual teleconferencing occurred! We wrote a plan. We even hired an outside consulting firm to tell us our plan was good!

Let me be clear, the average SES  award for 2010 was $7,929; the average for 2011 was $9,217. To put that into perspective, Government-wide, the average performance award paid to SES members in 2010 was $13,081. Add this amount to a salary of $150,000 and you are talking Wall Street Secretary, not an important representative of the Broadcasting Board of Governors! We should be grateful they deign to serve for such a pittance. (I must admit, I do sense a certain unattractive note of envy on your part, perhaps you should have spent more time cultivating contacts for advancement, rather than journalistic contacts with all that pesky “questioning of authority?” Just asking.)

Currently, the IBB Director (a Presidential appointee and not a member of the SES) determines whether agency SES members should receive a salary increase and/or performance award and the amounts.   Prior to the recent organizational restructuring, the Acting IBB Director made compensation determinations for IBB, VOA and OCB SES members and  the BBG Executive Director made these decisions for SES members on the BBG staff.  In 2010, a subcommittee of the Board made decisions for awards for the BBG Executive Director and Acting IBB/VOA Director.   How fortunate we are that every single one qualified for bonuses! (I suppose you would be happier if we had your average Joe, rather than the supremely qualified candidates of the Lake Woebegone Management Recruiters?) Some people are never happy.

Richard M. Lobo
Director, International Broadcasting Bureau
Broadcasting Board of Governors

Here is the original response from IBB Director Richard Lobo:

We have received several questions from readers about cash awards given to BBG Senior Executive Service (SES) members in 2010 and 2011.

Currently, there are three SES members on the BBG staff; seven in IBB, five in VOA and one in OCB. These SES members, who are assigned the highest level of responsibility for carrying out our mission, operate under a government-wide performance-based pay system that has been in effect since January 2004.

Under this system, SES members are ineligible for automatic annual pay adjustments; within-grade increases (WGIS); and quality step increases (QSIs). Also, SES members are not eligible for promotions, i.e., salary increases automatically tied to increases in responsibilities. Instead, SES salary is based strictly on a member’s performance and contribution to the agency’s mission. Among the major agency accomplishments during the past two years were completion of a comprehensive year-long strategic review and a resulting strategic plan for international broadcasting, reaching record global audiences, and several other impressive achievements reported in the Agency’s annual Performance and Accountability Reports:

(http://media.voanews.com/documents/BBG+FY+2011+PAR.pdf)

While concerted efforts resulted in improvements in a number of areas, the overall results of the federal employee satisfaction survey remain a serious concern.

In 2010, SES members received individual salary increases averaging 1.7%. GS and GG employees in the Washington, DC metropolitan area received a 2.42% salary increase that year and continued to receive within-grade increases up to the top step of their grade if they met length of service and basic performance requirements.

Like GS, GG, and WB employees, there was no increase in the pay scale for SES members in 2011, although GS and GG employees continued to receive WGIs and be eligible for QSIs and promotions.

Awards are an integral part of the overall SES compensation plan. To emphasize the importance of the contributions expected each year, the agency allots a significant percentage of SES members’ compensation in the form of one-time awards rather than continuing basic salary increases.

The average SES award for 2010 was $7,929; the average for 2011 was $9,217. To put that into perspective, Government-wide, the average performance award paid to SES members in 2010 was $13,081. Government-wide figures for 2011 are not yet available.

Currently, the IBB Director (a Presidential appointee and not a member of the SES) determines whether agency SES members should receive a salary increase and/or performance award and the amounts. Prior to the recent organizational restructuring, the Acting IBB Director made compensation determinations for IBB, VOA and OCB SES members and the BBG Executive Director made these decisions for SES members on the BBG staff. In 2010, a subcommittee of the Board made decisions for awards for the BBG Executive Director and Acting IBB/VOA Director.

The Agency is committed to ensuring that non SES as well as SES employees are rewarded for extraordinary contributions to the agency. More than $700,000 was distributed in cash awards to more than 800 non SES employees in FY 2011, including more than 50 QSIs. Also more than 420 non SES employees received time off awards.

Richard M. Lobo
Director, International Broadcasting Bureau
Broadcasting Board of Governors

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