Watchdog probes low morale at FEC

The Federal Election Commission's (FEC) internal watchdog is launching an investigation into why employees at the agency have such low morale.

The FEC’s inspector general is responding to an annual survey taken by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in which the nation’s election regulator received an overall score of 43 out of 100 from its employees about how satisfied they are with their jobs.

More than half of the agency, 163 people, participated in the survey.

An overall score is calculated from categories such as how satisfied employees are with their pay, their job, their organization and whether they would “recommend their organization as a good place to work,” according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Only 30 percent of those surveyed would recommend the FEC as a good place to work. Slightly more, 32 percent, listed being satisfied with the agency. Nearly 60 percent, however, reported being satisfied with their pay.

Only half of the employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their job.

“Results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey revealed a serious morale problem at the FEC, which could have an impact on the ability of the FEC to achieve its mission in an effective and efficient manner,” the FEC’s inspector general said in its work plan for fiscal year 2016.

A full report from the watchdog is expected early next year, according to the document.

The FEC is a bipartisan six-member commission, whose even-numbered composition has led to a deadlocked agency on several high-profile campaign finance and election law issues.

Five of the six commissioners are serving on expired terms. New commissioners require Senate approval, but President Obama has not nominated any.

The Center for Public Integrity, which first reported the OPM survey, noted that the FEC’s legal department has been without a leader for 776 days. That department represents about a third of agency staff.

The overall FEC satisfaction level ranks only above the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, whose employees gave it a 36, and the U.S. African Development Foundation, which received an overall satisfaction score of 18.

The data is separated into two categories: large agencies and small agencies.

The FEC even ranks below the agency that received the lowest score among the large agencies — the Department of Homeland Security earned a 47 out of 100.

The Center for Public Integrity spoke with three FEC employees, one of whom said they “don't feel as if their work is valued by agency leaders, if it's acknowledged at all.” They spoke on condition of anonymity.