Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Uncle Sam’s Bonus Program

Many businesses offer financial incentives to their employees in order to reward hard work, promote quality craftsmanship, or compensate superb ideas; the government is no different when paying a contractor. It isn’t corrupt to give bonuses to businesses that deserve it. I’m not talking about AIG or corrupt executives from some big company. The government tries, just like any business, to reward good work.

Recently, a rumor came around that Uncle Sam planned to reward the businesses that are “green” and offer better-than-average work bonuses. According to Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, the government is creating a program that will reward – or penalize – green contractors working on federal buildings and retrofits.

How does the government judge what is “quality” work by green companies? It isn’t as easy as one would think to obtain these bonuses. For instance, say a business installed an air conditioner on six buildings. Throughout the process there are federal employees tracking how much money and time it takes for the installation and what the current non-green air conditioner costs. Once everything is complete, the employee continues to track how well the system works. If the new system cuts energy costs by 30%, then the contractor who installed it can receive half of the savings as a bonus.

The bonus doesn’t cost anything extra; the green company still installed a system that saves Uncle Sam money, therefore the reward the contractor receives is a portion of the savings and not anything extra out of the tax-payers’ wallet. Many federal buildings will be retrofitted under contracts where companies come in and replace key systems to reduce energy costs over the next few years. There is $4.5 billion allocated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 towards retrofitting; that money includes these bonuses.

Another benefit of awarding bonuses to green companies it that the repairs and installations these businesses are completing require skill and experience. The bonus system will help weed out those contractors that don’t have workers with the knowledge to successfully complete the projects. In addition, Congress is trying to pass an amendment that will help prevent giving bonuses to companies that don’t deserve them. Amendment 892 states that it wants to “End Bogus Bonuses for Poor Performance by Government Contractors and Executives.” One of its main goals is to prevent businesses that complete the contract below satisfactory will not receive more money than the original contract stated.

All in all, the government planning to reward green companies is a win-win situation for those businesses with the knowledge and experience to complete the going-green contracts. Kermit the Frog had it wrong when he said, “It ain’t easy being green.”

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