House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday asked Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for information related to an internal report showing abuses of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s “telework” program that allows employees to work from home and with flexible hours.
The letter builds off a damaging Washington Post story that said employees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have abused the agency’s telework policy for years. That story said USPTO employees “lied about the hours they were putting in,” and received bonuses for work they never finished.
Among other things, the story said employees were caught cheating the system but not fired, and that one employee used a program to make it appear as if his computer mouse was moving to create the appearance he was working.
The story said an internal report on these and other abuses was scrubbed before being handed over to the Commerce Department’s Inspector General, in order to hide some of the more egregious problems.
“The Posts’s report comes at a time when examiners are apparently falling behind on one of the core functions of the agency,” Issa wrote. “The USPTO reportedly has a backlog of patent applications of over 600,000 and an approximate wait time of more than five years.”
“Despite patent examiners generally receiving salary at the top of the federal pay scale — some making $148,000 a year — it appears the telework program is not serving its intended purpose to produce more efficiency,” the letter added.
Issa asked Commerce to produce all documents, internal communications and emails related to the internal report on the telework program to the committee by September 2.
Read Issa’s letter here: