andrew schneider investigates

June 26, 2008

Big bonus bucks to FDA bosses only

Filed under: FDA,Food Safety,Government & corporate wrong-doing — Andrew Schneider @ 18:55

I’m going to rant for a few paragraphs on federal employees and their salaries.

Before you start sending me hate mail for dumping on your noble mail carrier or favorite FBI agent, I invite you take a peek at “An Air That Kills,” a book that David McCumber and I cobbled together on how W.R. Grace poisoned the town and people of Libby, Mont. The only reason we agreed to do the book was so we could share the stories of some of the heroes whose tales were not told in the 270-plus asbestos related articles we ran in newspapers.

Those heroes were career federal investigators, emergency responders, lawyers, physicians, scientists and others who began a fight that started in 1999 and continues today. They fought not only Grace, a worldwide chemical company, many of the political appointees and their bootlickers in EPA headquarters, a couple of Grace loyalists in the U.S. Senate and the White House itself. These EPA workers gave, and still give, their all to their profession and the well-being of the public, as do many of the other federal workers who help me get accurate information out day after day. These include several people in the Food and Drug Administration, which I will now get around to addressing.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. John Dingell’s Committee on Energy and Commerce continued its poking, peeking and prodding in its ongoing investigation into compensation practices at the FDA. Today, the committee released data showing who got the bonuses, which rose from $27 million in 2006 to $35 million last year.

But it’s not the amount of the retention bonuses, but rather, who got them. For example. FDA’s chief of regulatory affairs received $48,663 in cash bonuses while the highest bonus paid to a field inspector was $2,500. OK, bosses, let’s support our front-line troops.

“This is yet another example of the failure of FDA management to understand that its sole purpose for existence is to protect the American people from unsafe food, drugs and medical devices,” said Dingell.

“These back-scratching bonuses could be used to hire inspectors that might have gone to China and uncovered the unsafe manufacturing practices that led to the heparin deaths, or the tomato packers that shipped salmonella to hundreds of Americans,” the Michigan Democrat said.

Committee members allow that “some of the extraordinary compensation paid to medical doctors that review drugs are justified, but millions of taxpayer dollars are being paid to people that perform no scientific function at all.”

Dingell added: “More disgracefully is that these bonuses are not being paid to retain the field workforce, inspectors, lab analysts and other dedicated FDA employees on the front lines who have their fingers in an increasingly leaky dike.”

Federal workers in our nation’s capital make an average of about $88,000 a year. As a result of FDA’s bonuses, many FDA managers and employees earn upward of $200,000 — more than members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries.

Here’s a link to the letter from the FDA telling the committee who gets what.


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