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White House Is Found Lax in Personnel, Pay Practices : Inquiry: Congress agency cites backdating of pay raises, 'double dipping' by transition team, other irregularities.


WASHINGTON — A congressional inquiry has found a pattern of irregular, sloppy business practices in Clinton White House operations, including backdating of some employee pay raises and paying 25 workers out of both the transition and White House accounts during the first three weeks of the Administration, according to a draft copy of the findings.

The inquiry into White House personnel practices by the General Accounting Office is to be released later this month. A draft copy, the result of negotiations between the White House and the GAO last week, was obtained by the Post.

The findings come at a particularly impolitic time for President Clinton, who on Tuesday will announce a major initiative to reform government practices overall.

White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Saturday that the "double dipping" by employees--which totaled about $17,000 in overlapping payments from the campaign and the White House--"was wrong and is being corrected." Overall, she said, the GAO findings were "relatively minor" and reflected the "rough patches" that the Clinton team went through as it entered office.

She said it "should not be surprising or unexpected" for a new Administration to have some start-up problems.

This is the third report criticizing the Clinton Administration's management of the White House.

Earlier this year, the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress, found that the White House had failed to follow normal procurement procedures in obtaining a new computer system. And an internal White House review of the firing of travel office workers in which the Office of Administration and Management and its director, David Watkins, played a major role, highlighted a number of failures in that operation.

The latest inquiry was sought by Republicans on the House subcommittee that oversees the White House budget. It began after career employees complained privately that they were being asked to engage in questionable personnel practices, including processing of retroactive pay raises, according to Rep. Jim Ross Lightfoot of Iowa, the senior Republican on the subcommittee.

Lightfoot said in an interview that the report documents a "pattern of incompetence and a tremendous inability by the Clinton people to understand the scope of the job they were undertaking."

He said he concluded from the study and other information gleaned by his subcommittee that problems at the White House are the result not of wrongdoing but of "incompetence. . . . They just constantly say they are too busy and too behind to follow proper procedures and rules."

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