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entitled '"The Government Accountability Office (GAO) Act of 2007" 
(H.R. 3268), and Other GAO Reforms' which was released on March 17, 
2008. 

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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the 
District of Columbia, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 
House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:00 p.m. EST: 

Thursday, March 13, 2008: 

"The Government Accountability Office (GAO) Act of 2007" (H.R. 3268), 
and Other GAO Reforms: 

Statement of Shirley A. Jones, Esq., Employee Advisory Council (EAC) 
Attorneys Representative: 

GAO-08-587T: 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today at your hearing on H.R. 3268, the 
"Government Accountability Office (GAO) Act of 2007" and other GAO 
reforms, to discuss the results of the survey that you previously 
requested that the Employee Advisory Council (EAC) conduct of all GAO 
employees (except Senior Executive Service/SL and interns) on GAO's 
Band II restructuring and the Watson Wyatt market-based compensation 
study used to set salary ranges. My name is Shirley Jones and I am an 
Assistant General Counsel at GAO. For the last four years I have served 
as the Attorneys Representative to the EAC. Since your hearing last 
May, I have worked with the EAC committee that conducted the survey. I 
am here today to share the results of that survey with you. 

Overview of EAC Creation and Purpose: 

The EAC was established by Comptroller General David Walker to provide 
a consolidated forum for him to meet with representatives from the 
various employee liaison groups (e.g. Advisory Council for Persons with 
Disabilities, Blacks In Government, Gay and Lesbian Employee 
Association, etc.) so that these groups could voice the concerns of 
their constituency groups. He also decided to include representatives 
from each of the staff positions (i.e. Administrative Professional 
Support Staff (APSS), attorneys, and each of the Band levels). 
Consequently, the EAC was chartered in January 2000 to serve as an 
advisory body to the Comptroller General and other senior executives by 
seeking and conveying the views and concerns of the individual employee 
groups they represent, proposing solutions to those concerns where 
appropriate, providing input by assessing and commenting on GAO 
policies, procedures, plans and practices, and communicating issues and 
concerns of the CG and senior managers to employees. 

Survey Background: 

Five EAC members volunteered to conduct the survey that you requested. 
In addition to myself, the committee consisted of Betsy Morris, Senior 
Analyst, Defense Capabilities and Management, Beverly Ross, Senior IT 
Specialist/Data Analyst, Applied Research and Methods, Nellie Shamlin, 
Executive Assistant, Professional Development Program, and Shana 
Wallace, Assistant Director, Applied Research and Methods. We received 
assistance from a survey specialist, Luann Moy, an Assistant Director 
from our Applied Research and Methods group. 

Upon completion of our preliminary survey development work, the survey 
was pre-tested among a small number of employees representing the 
different Band levels and positions in the agency, and representing 
both headquarters and field staff. A draft of the survey instrument was 
provided to the Chairman's staff for comment. A courtesy copy was given 
to the Comptroller General and the attorney representing the IFPTE. 

The finalized survey was ultimately launched on Thursday, November 15, 
2007. The survey was closed on Friday, December 14, 2007. Your staff 
was briefed on the results on January 15, 2008 and March 5, 2008. 

Overall Survey Response Rate: 

The survey was sent to all GAO employees except Senior Executive 
Service/SL and interns (a total of 3,002 employees). 71% of eligible 
employees participated in the survey. 

To provide a picture of those responding to the survey, respondents 
were asked demographic questions regarding their position, years at 
GAO, age, race, ethnicity, sex, and location (headquarters or field). 
As is normally the case, some respondents chose not to answer some or 
all of the demographic questions. 

The highest area of nonresponse to the demographic questions was in the 
answer to the question about race identification, which was not 
answered by 253 or 12% of the respondents. The highest nonresponse was 
from Asian employees (the number who responded and identified 
themselves as Asian represents only 40% of those eligible) and African 
Americans (the number who responded and identified themselves as 
African American represents only 49% of those eligible). Because of the 
lower response rate for these two races, the EAC survey committee noted 
its concerns with presenting comparisons by race and with the possible 
under-representation of the views of those two groups in particular. 

Analysis of Close-Ended Survey Questions: 

Several survey questions asked employees about the Watson Wyatt market- 
based compensation study and specifically about staff involvement, 
input and transparency. Specifically, respondents who were at GAO prior 
to January 1, 2006, were asked if they were involved in several 
different types of activities conducted by Watson Wyatt and GAO during 
the study. These activities included focus groups, interviews, meetings 
with team management, and CG chats. 

Of those respondents who were at GAO prior to that date (83% of 
respondents), 30% could not recall if they received communications from 
management advising that Watson Wyatt would be conducting focus groups. 
Of those who recalled whether they participated in focus groups, more 
APSS than analyst staff reported participating. Specifically, 19% of 
APSS staff reported participating, while only 4% of analysts and 8% of 
attorneys reported participating. 

Only 4% of all respondents at GAO prior to that date reported being 
interviewed by Watson Wyatt. More APSS than other staff reported being 
interviewed (21%). Of particular note, no Band I or Band II respondents 
reported being interviewed by Watson Wyatt. However, in comparison to 
the 4% that reported being interviewed by Watson Wyatt, 21% of 
respondents reported having attended briefings conducted by Watson 
Wyatt. 

A higher number of staff who were at GAO prior to that date, 94%, 
reported that they listened to CG Chats or attended town hall meetings. 
13% also reported asking a question or making a comment to the CG about 
the transition outside of meetings. 

53% of respondents reported little or no opportunity to provide input 
to management on the transition to market-based pay. A higher 
percentage of respondents who identified themselves as Hispanic (67%) 
or African American (66%) as compared to other racial groups reported 
that they had little or no opportunity to provide input into the 
transition.[Footnote 1] 

81% of respondents reported that they felt they were only slightly 
involved or not at all involved in providing input to management on the 
transition to market-based pay. Similarly, 81% of respondents also felt 
that employee input on the transition was ultimately only slightly or 
not at all considered. 42% responded that employee input was not at all 
considered. 

57% of all respondents at GAO prior to January 2006 felt the level of 
transparency of the Watson Wyatt study to be very or somewhat 
unreasonable. Similarly, 58% also felt that the level of transparency 
of the GAO decision-making process was somewhat or very unreasonable. 
Generally, the more years of service a respondent had at GAO, the more 
likely he or she was to report feeling the GAO decision-making process 
was somewhat or very unreasonable. 75% of respondents with over 20 
years of service felt this way compared to 55% or respondents with 2 
years or less. 

46% of survey respondents felt generally dissatisfied or very 
dissatisfied with GAO's market-based pay system compared to 34% of 
survey respondents who were generally or very satisfied. 20% of 
respondents reported that they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. 

There were notable differences in dissatisfaction level based on 
position, age, and race. Band IIAs and Band IIBs reported being more 
dissatisfied than Band I and Band III analysts, APSS, and attorneys. A 
higher percentage of respondents age 40 and over (59%) than under 40 
(25%) reported feeling generally or very dissatisfied with the market- 
based pay system. African Americans also had higher percentages of 
respondents (64%) than other racial groups who said they were generally 
or very dissatisfied with GAO's market-based pay system than those in 
other racial groups. 

With regard to the effect of the transition to market-based pay on 
overall morale, 81% of respondents thought morale in general was worse 
or much worse now than before the transition to market based pay. 48% 
responded that their own morale was worse or much worse now. A higher 
percentage of respondents age 40 and over than respondents under 40 
reported that their morale and productivity are worse or much worse 
than before the transition. A higher percentage of African Americans 
than other racial groups reported that their morale was worse or much 
worse (58%). 

Regarding the Band II Restructuring (i.e. the restructuring of Band II 
into a Band IIA and Band IIB with IIB having a higher salary range), 
54% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the Band II 
analyst and analyst-related restructuring, while 29% agreed or strongly 
agreed. Certain demographics disagreed or strongly disagreed at a 
higher rate - African Americans (67%), Band IIA (67%), those at GAO 10 
years or longer (66%), and employees 40 years or older (65%). 

Regarding specific outcomes of the Band II restructuring, 55% of 
respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that the restructuring 
rewards workers more equitably, while 31% agreed or strongly agreed. 
Similarly, 67% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the restructuring 
enhances productivity while 13% agreed or strongly agreed. 

Conversely, a slight majority (52%) of respondents agreed or strongly 
agreed that Band IIB staff lead more complex jobs. These results varied 
widely by Band level - 34% of Band IIAs agreed or strongly agreed while 
Band IIBs and Band IIIs agreed or strongly agreed at a much higher rate 
(69% and 71% respectively). 

Regarding the current general climate at GAO, 40% of respondents said 
that their own level of morale related to working at GAO was high or 
very high. 36% said their level of morale was moderate, while 24% said 
it was low or very low. 

There were notable differences in responses regarding general climate 
at GAO based on position, age, and years of service. Among the 
different positions at GAO, Band IIA analysts had the lowest percentage 
responding that their morale was high or very high (30%) while 
attorneys had the highest percentage (60%). 53% of respondents under 40 
years old reported high or very high levels compared to 32% of 
respondents who were age 40 or older. Staff with less than 10 years at 
GAO (50%) reported higher levels of morale than respondents with 10 or 
more years at GAO (only 30%). 

45% of respondents reported feeling that their professional 
contributions at GAO were valued to a high degree. 33% said that their 
contributions were moderately valued, and 22% said their contributions 
were valued to a low or very low degree. Lower percentages of Band IIA 
analyst and APSS (33% and 38% respectively) felt their contributions 
were highly or very highly valued compared to attorneys and Band III 
staff (67% and 63% respectively). 

The more years of service respondents had at GAO, the less likely they 
were to report that they felt their contributions were highly or very 
highly valued. A lower percentage of respondents with 10 or more years 
of service (37%) than respondents with under 10 years of service (54%) 
felt that their contributions were highly valued. Similarly, a lower 
percentage of respondents age 40 and older (38%) than respondents under 
40 (59%) felt that their contributions were highly valued. 

A lower percentage of African Americans compared to other race groups 
felt that their contributions were highly valued. 27% of African 
Americans responded that their contributions were highly or very highly 
valued compared to 51% of White staff. 

Methodology for Content Analysis of Open-Ended Survey Question: 

To give respondents an opportunity to provide additional thoughts or 
concerns, we include an open-ended question which read "What other 
comments or thoughts would you like to provide to the House 
Subcommittee about the Watson Wyatt study, Band II restructuring, 
market-based pay system, the GAO performance management system or GAO 
work life, in general?" 1113 respondents provided substantive comments 
to this question. 

To classify the nature of the comments, we created 29 categories to use 
as codes. Two survey committee members independently coded every 
comment, and then discussed comments where there were any differences 
in coding until 100% agreement was reached. Some comments were coded 
into more than one category since some respondents discussed more than 
one topic. 

Analysis of Open-Ended Survey Question: 

The comments to the open-ended question cannot be generalized to the 
entire GAO employee population. They do, however, provide some insights 
into why some respondents answered close-ended survey questions as they 
did. 

Our content analysis of respondents' comments showed the top specific 
areas of concern expressed as the Band II restructuring being damaging 
to employee morale or otherwise providing disincentives (217 comments), 
the Pay For Performance (PFP) system being damaging to employee morale 
or otherwise providing disincentives (133), PFP ratings not being 
accurate (108), GAO employees not receiving the same COLA as employees 
at Federal executive branch agencies (107), and the Watson Wyatt study 
being flawed or fraudulent (84). (The other two categories among the 
top seven most common comments were "other" less specific consolidated 
comments.) 

Although not generalizeable to the overall GAO population, we noted 
that more than twice as many respondents commented that the Band II 
restructuring was damaging to employee morale or otherwise provided 
disincentives than those that responded that it was the right thing to 
do. Specifically, in contrast to the 217 comments noted above from 
respondents that said that the Band II restructuring at GAO is damaging 
to employee morale or otherwise provides disincentives, 74 of the 
narrative comments said the Band II restructuring was the right thing 
to do. Some other comments expressed agreement with the Band II 
restructuring in concept but didn't believe it was working (74). Some 
comments also noted concern with the lack of transparency in the Band 
II restructuring (47). Some respondents also noted their belief that 
the Band II restructuring should have included "grandfathering" 
provisions for staff already within Band II at the beginning of the 
process (31). 

While 133 respondents commented that GAO's Pay For Performance (PFP) 
system is damaging to employee morale or otherwise provides 
disincentives, 80 respondents said that they believe that PFP at GAO is 
helpful or worthwhile. Similarly, 108 respondents specifically noted 
their belief that PFP ratings are inaccurate. Some others agreed with 
PFP in concept but didn't believe it was working here at GAO (48). Some 
respondents also noted their concern with the lack of transparency in 
the PFP system at GAO (69). A smaller number of respondents 
specifically noted their belief that the PFP system is flawed, 
fraudulent or unethical (45). 

Cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were also a consistent theme within 
the narrative responses. As noted earlier, 107 respondents specifically 
noted their belief that GAO employees should receive the same COLA as 
employees at Federal executive branch agencies. 

Compared to the 84 narrative comments that noted concerns with the 
Watson Wyatt study being flawed or fraudulent, 6 narrative comments 
specifically noted belief that the Watson Wyatt study was correct. Some 
respondents' comments also noted concerns about the lack of 
transparency with the Watson Wyatt study (73). 

Some narrative comments conveyed positive thoughts including the belief 
that the Comptroller General should be given credit for moving the 
agency in the right direction (30) and that GAO has excellent benefits 
(32). Other generally positive comments (44) that did not fit into one 
of the more specific categories so were coded as "Other-Positive" 
included beliefs that GAO's Professional Development Program (PDP) is a 
very good one and that GAO's work is cutting edge. 

Staff also used the narrative comments, however, to express their 
belief that the changes at GAO were going to happen anyway regardless 
of staff input (64). Other negative comments included concerns with GAO 
losing talented staff because of recent changes (74), GAO's overall 
processes being discriminatory (54), lack of trust overall (45), and 
locality pay decisions being flawed (27). 

The count of combined negative comments that did not fit into the more 
specific categories and that were captured as "Other-Negative" had the 
highest overall category count (426). This category captured a variety 
of negative comments such as promoting Band I staff to IIA faster 
results in less qualified staff at higher levels, GAO should deal with 
the real problem - poor performance, concerns about the lack of 
domestic partner benefits, and concerns about the treatment of 
communications analyst positions under the Band II restructuring. 

Conclusion: 

In general, Band IIA staff reported more unfavorable responses to many 
of the topics covered in this survey (Band II restructuring, the Watson 
Wyatt studies -analyst and APSS, market-based pay, and overall GAO 
climate) than staff in other bands and positions. African American 
staff, older staff, and staff with more years at GAO, also had 
generally less favorable opinions of these topics. There were few 
differences of opinion between male and female staff, and headquarters 
and field staff about these topics. 

Respondents used the open-ended question that we included to further 
highlight their concerns regarding these topics as well as to express 
their continued belief in the work of the agency. While the narrative 
comments can not be generalized to the overall GAO population, they did 
provide insightful and thoughtful feedback for consideration. 


Footnotes:  

[1] As noted earlier, because of the lower response rate for Asians and 
African Americans, the EAC survey committee noted its concerns with 
presenting comparisons by race and with the possible under- 
representation of the views of those two groups in particular. 

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