No bonuses for Missouri state workers, but consultant got paid $800,000

Kurt Erickson St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Columbia Daily Tribune

JEFFERSON CITY -- Gov. Mike Parson's administration paid a consultant nearly $800,000 this year to help design a new way to evaluate and recognize state employees.

Among the tasks undertaken by Deloitte Consulting was a study of how other states offer rewards and "incentives for superior performance."

But when Parson asked the Legislature in January to approve a plan to give top performing workers bonuses, lawmakers said such a scheme is illegal under the state constitution.

The bonus plan crafted with the input of the consultants was quickly scrapped in the budget process, but the employee evaluation system remains in place.

Big payouts to consulting firms have been a common theme under Parson and his predecessor, former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Earlier, the Post-Dispatch reported the state was on pace to pay the Virginia-based McChrystal Group $1.3 million to provide assistance in the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Parson, a Republican, has defended that contract, saying the state is financing it with federal, not state, dollars.

In 2017, the state launched a "leadership training" program at the Department of Corrections that ultimately paid the Chad Carden Group, a Jefferson City consulting firm, over $1 million.

The state also has paid McKinsey & Co. $2.7 million to study how Missouri could save money on its Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

In May, records show the state hired Deloitte to develop a model to recognize workers for their efforts.

"The state is transforming our management approach with an emphasis on reward for performance," bidding documents show.

The contract represented the latest in an overhaul of working conditions affecting the state's 53,000-plus workers. After an earlier study showed Missouri pays its state employees the lowest in the nation, Greitens, Parson and the Republican-led Legislature have earmarked money for raises and altered the personnel system to make it easier to fire workers.

In pitching itself as the right company for the job, Deloitte officials offered up a multiphase program designed to outline a system where workers could set goals for improved performance and, potentially, be rewarded for it.

Chris Moreland, a spokesman for the Office of Administration, which deals with state personnel issues, said Deloitte created the framework of the new system, but was not directly involved in crafting the bonus proposal.

"They did not do a report, but they did research how other states offer rewards/incentives for superior performance," Moreland said in a statement.

Eight months after Deloitte came on board, Parson outlined his plan to offer bonuses as part of his budget proposal in January.

The governor recommended $5.1 million to fund "performance incentives for the top 10 percent of state employees in 15 departments to motivate 'above and beyond' performance, promote continuous improvement and improve accountability," the governor's budget plan noted.

The program, which was titled "Above & Beyond Performance Incentives," noted the proposed incentives "of up to 5 percent will be capped at $2,500 maximum per qualifying employee."

The idea was nearly immediately nixed by lawmakers. The leaders of the budget process in the House and Senate said government worker bonuses are barred by the constitution.

"The General Assembly shall not have power... To grant or to authorize any county or municipal authority to grant any extra compensation, fee or allowance to a public officer, agent, servant or contractor after service has been rendered or a contract has been entered into and performed in whole or in part," the constitution notes.