An example in the letter is of a FDA employee who went to hospital in the middle of the night with his sick child to discover that they had no health insurance as he had been mistakenly sacked.
Further examples are given and the letter also quotes FDA employees who believe that the agency’s mismanagement results in low morale, high turnover of staff and affects the quality of work.
Grassley said: “Based on the reports that have come to me, it looks like there is more than isolated incidents of mismanagement, and it could have significant repercussions for the quality workforce that the public deserves to have at the FDA. The leadership of the department and the agency needs to address these issues promptly.”
In the letter are several stories of how the FDA’s alleged failings have been highly detrimental to its employees, noting at least two occasions when employees may have been mistakenly overpaid by several thousand dollars.
The fallout of this was the receipt of threatening debt collection letters, misstatement of income taxes and costly expenditures on attorneys and accountants. Grassley also notes that these mistakes could result in costly legal actions being brought against the FDA.
Mistakes such as these can impact upon the morale and effectiveness of the agency, with a senior medical officer at the FDA saying that pay errors caused him/her “an enormous amount of stress”.
Beyond the immediate impact on the quality of an individuals work, the mistakes could be detrimental to the pedigree of staff employed by the agency, with the same medical officer saying pay errors were the only factor that would make him/her leave the FDA for the private sector.
The fear is that if the FDA is perceived as an unattractive place to work any recruitment drive initiated will not attract the very best candidates in the industry.
The next step
Grassley has requested that the FDA provides him with extensive documentation, including records of all complaints since 1 January 2006 and actions taken to resolve them.
Six years ago the FDA stopped managing its own employee’s wages and benefits, according to Grassley, and the Senator requests information relating to the agency’s now responsible for these areas.
The Senator is also looking into the FDA’s drive to hire 1,300 people, of which he believes 40 per cent are simply filling vacancies created by retirements and normal attrition.
To gain a fuller understanding of this Grassley has requested the net increase or decrease in staff by centre, from 1 January 2008 to the present.
He also requests the number of new employees at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) who have never worked at the FDA, and the number who have been transferred from another section of the agency.
The complete letter can be found here.