B-198553, FEBRUARY 3, 1981, 60 COMP.GEN. 235

B-198553: Feb 3, 1981

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

WAXMAN PROPOSES THAT AGENCIES BE ALLOWED TO PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF PERSONS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR APPOINTMENT TO POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE IN (1) CERTAIN CASES IN WHICH OPM HAS DELEGATED EXAMINING AUTHORITY TO VARIOUS AGENCIES FOR CERTAIN POSITIONS FOR WHICH THE RESPECTIVE AGENCY IS THE SOLE OR PREDOMINANT USER. SHE STATES THAT THE AUTHORITY TO EXPAND THE PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSE RULE IS BASED ON CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978. UNDER THE GUIDELINES OR STANDARDS WHICH OPM WILL IMPOSE. DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE HAVE HELD THAT A GOVERNMENT AGENCY MAY NOT PAY OR REIMBURSE A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE FOR THE EXPENSES INCURRED IN TRAVELING TO A PLACE OF INTERVIEW FOR THE PURPOSE OF DETERMINING THE INDIVIDUAL'S QUALIFICATIONS FOR APPOINTMENT TO A POSITION IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE SINCE THE FUNCTION OF ASCERTAINING THE QUALIFICATIONS OF PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES IS A MATTER WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION (NOW OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT).

B-198553, FEBRUARY 3, 1981, 60 COMP.GEN. 235

TRAVEL EXPENSES - INTERVIEWS, QUALIFICATIONS, DETERMINATIONS, ETC. - COMPETITIVE SERVICE POSITIONS - REIMBURSEMENT PROHIBITION - CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT EFFECT OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT (OPM) REQUESTS THAT WE MODIFY OUR RULE WHICH PROHIBITS AGENCIES FROM PAYING PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF APPLICANTS FOR THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE EXCEPT IN LIMITED CIRCUMSTANCES. IN VIEW OF THE INCREASING DELEGATION BY OPM OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITIES TO AGENCIES UNDER THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978, AND SINCE OUR DECISIONS LIMITING THE PAYMENT OF PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES RELY ON OUTMODED CONCEPTS OF AN AGENCY'S MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY, WE NOW HOLD AGENCIES MAY PAY THE PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF APPLICANTS FOR THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE SUBJECT TO GUIDELINES OR STANDARDS IMPOSED BY OPM. 54 COMP.GEN. 554, 31 ID. 175, AND B-172279, MAY 20, 1971, OVERRULED.

MATTER OF: OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT - PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES, FEBRUARY 3, 1981:

MS. MARGERY WAXMAN, GENERAL COUNSEL, OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT (OPM), HAS REQUESTED OUR DECISION AS TO WHETHER THE AUTHORITY OF FEDERAL AGENCIES TO PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF PERSONS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR APPOINTMENT TO POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE, MAY BE BROADENED.

MS. WAXMAN PROPOSES THAT AGENCIES BE ALLOWED TO PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF PERSONS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR APPOINTMENT TO POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE IN (1) CERTAIN CASES IN WHICH OPM HAS DELEGATED EXAMINING AUTHORITY TO VARIOUS AGENCIES FOR CERTAIN POSITIONS FOR WHICH THE RESPECTIVE AGENCY IS THE SOLE OR PREDOMINANT USER; (2) CERTAIN CASES IN WHICH OPM HAS DELEGATED DIRECT HIRE AUTHORITY TO AGENCIES FOR SHORTAGE CATEGORY AND HARD-TO FILL POSITIONS. SHE STATES THAT THE AUTHORITY TO EXPAND THE PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSE RULE IS BASED ON CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978, PUB. L. 95-454, 92 STAT. 1111, 5 U.S.C. 1101 NOTE.

FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS, UNDER THE GUIDELINES OR STANDARDS WHICH OPM WILL IMPOSE, WE SHALL NO LONGER OBJECT TO AGENCIES PAYING PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES TO APPLICANTS FOR POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE.

BACKGROUND

UNTIL MODIFIED BY 54 COMP.GEN. 554(1975), DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE HAVE HELD THAT A GOVERNMENT AGENCY MAY NOT PAY OR REIMBURSE A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE FOR THE EXPENSES INCURRED IN TRAVELING TO A PLACE OF INTERVIEW FOR THE PURPOSE OF DETERMINING THE INDIVIDUAL'S QUALIFICATIONS FOR APPOINTMENT TO A POSITION IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE SINCE THE FUNCTION OF ASCERTAINING THE QUALIFICATIONS OF PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES IS A MATTER WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION (NOW OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT). SEE 31 COMP.GEN. 175(1951); B-172279, MAY 20, 1971. IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FROM THE COMMISSION WE MODIFIED DECISIONS 31 COMP.GEN. 175 AND B-172279 AND HELD THAT WHERE THE COMMISSION RULES THAT A POSITION IS OF SUCH NATURE THAT IT COULD ONLY BE PROPERLY FILLED AFTER THE APPLICANT HAS HAD A PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW WITH THE EMPLOYING AGENCY, WE WOULD HAVE NO OBJECTION TO THE AGENCY PAYING FOR PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES TO APPLICANTS FOR POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE ON CERTAIN LIMITED INSTANCES. 54 COMP.GEN. 554. SUBSEQUENT TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE LATTER DECISION. GUIDANCE WAS ISSUED TO AGENCIES SETTING OUT IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES AGENCIES COULD PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES UNDER 54 COMP.GEN. 554. SEE FEDERAL PERSONNEL MANUAL (FPM) CHAPTER 571, SUBCHAPTER 1, MAY 16, 1979. PURSUANT TO THE LIMITATIONS STATED IN 54 COMP.GEN. 554, CHAPTER 571 RESTRICTED THE PAYMENT OF PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES TO APPLICANTS, FOR POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE WHICH ARE CLASSIFIED AT A HIGH GRADE (GS-14 AND ABOVE) OR WHICH ARE UNIQUE.

POSITION OF OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

MS. WAXMAN ARGUES THE CASE FOR BROADENING THE AUTHORITY OF AGENCIES TO PAY FOR PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES AS FOLLOWS:

SINCE THE ENACTMENT OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UNIFORM GUIDELINES ON EMPLOYEE SELECTION, * * * , THE ENTIRE MANNER IN WHICH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT EXAMINES AND SELECTS CANDIDATES HAS UNDERGONE RAPID CHANGE. THE CHANGES IN EXAMINING ARE CHARACTERIZED BY FOUR SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS:

1. A MOVEMENT AWAY FROM THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF CENTRALIZED EXAMINING RESPONSIBILITY OF OPM;

2. A SUBSTANTIALLY EXPANDED ROLE FOR FEDERAL AGENCIES AT KEY DECISION- MAKING POINTS IN THE STAFFING PROCESS;

3. LESS RELIANCE ON STAFFING INVENTORIES, AND ESTABLISHMENT OF STAFFING TECHNIQUES THAT FOCUS ON EXAMINING FOR INDIVIDUAL VACANCIES AS THEY OCCUR;

4. DEVELOPMENT OF ALTERNATIVES TO WRITTEN TESTS. * * *

IN THIS REGARD, MS. WAXMAN VIEWS THE IMPACT OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978 AS FOLLOWS:

PERMITTING AGENCIES TO PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW EXPENSES SOULD IMPLEMENT ONE OF THE MAJOR GOALS OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT, TO GIVE MORE STAFFING RESPONSIBILITY TO AGENCIES AND THUS IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF PUBLIC SERVICE. UNDER CSRA, OPM MAY DELEGATE AND HAS DELEGATED TO CERTAIN AGENCIES COMPETITIVE EXAMINATION AUTHORITY (5 U.S.C. 1104(A)(2)). UNDER THE ACT, OPM MUST ESTABLISH STANDARDS FOR AGENCIES DELEGATED DIRECT HIRE AUTHORITY (ID. SEC. 1104(B)(1)); AUTHORITY TO PAY PRE-EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW EXPENSES MIGHT WELL BE ONE OF THOSE STANDARDS. FURTHER, THE POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE OF ANY SUCH AUTHORITY MAY BE CHECKED BY OPM'S OVERSIGHT AUTHORITY (SEC. 1104(B)(2)) AND OPM'S ABILITY TO REQUIRE AGENCIES TO TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION FOR ABUSE OF ANY RULES, REGULATIONS OR STANDARDS ESTABLISHED UNDER SEC. 1104(B)(1) (SEC. 1104(C)). THE AUTHORITY REQUESTED MIGHT ALSO ENABLE AGENCIES TO PURSUE MORE VIGOROUSLY THEIR RECRUITMENT EFFORTS FOR WOMEN AND MINORITIES, AS MANDATED BY CRSA.

AS OF MAY 1980, OPM HAD AUTHORIZED THE ESTABLISHMENT OF 130 SEPARATE AGENCY EXAMINING UNITS. IN ADDITION, OPM IS PRESENTLY AUTHORIZING AGENCIES TO ANNOUNCE AND EXAMINE FOR POSITIONS AT GRADES GS-9 THROUGH 15 IN THE OCCUPATIONAL AREAS OF GENERAL ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT, ON A CASE BASIS. FOR THE FIRST QUARTER OF FISCAL YEAR 1980 (ENDING DECEMBER 29, 1979), AGENCIES WITH DELEGATED EXAMINING AUTHORITY HAD REPORTED A TOTAL OF 4,230 SELECTIONS. ALTHOUGH OPM HAS NOT YET COLLECTED HARD DATA TO ASSESS THE OVERALL IMPACT OF THESE CHANGES (AUDITS ARE PLANNED FOR THE NEAR FUTURE), WE BELIEVE THAT THE CHANGES DESCRIBED HAVE RESULTED IN THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS:

1. IMPROVED QUALITY OF CANDIDATES REFERRED, DUE TO SPECIFICITY OF JOB REQUIREMENTS AND RECRUITING EFFORTS;

2. FULL INVOLVEMENT OF AGENCIES, INCLUDING LINE MANAGERS, IN THE TOTAL SELECTION PROCESS;

3. ABILITY OF AGENCIES TO IMPROVE TARGETED RECRUITING, KEYED TO SHORT AND LONG RANGE STAFFING NEEDS AND TO MINORITY RECRUITMENT GOALS ESTABLISHED BY CSRA;

4. ABILITY TO USE COMPETITIVE AND INTERNAL MERIT STAFFING PROCESSES CONCURRENTLY AND WITH THE SAME RESOURCES;

5. SWIFTER AND MORE EFFICIENT STAFFING.

AS PART OF THE TREND AWAY FROM OPM RESPONSIBILITY FOR EXAMINING AND SELECTING CANDIDATES, WE HAVE REACHED AGREEMENTS WITH MOST FEDERAL AGENCIES TO DELEGATE EXAMINING AUTHORITY TO THEM FOR SINGLE AGENCY OCCUPATION COVERED BY PACE. THESE AGREEMENTS WILL REMOVE ABOUT HALF OF ALL SELECTIONS FROM PACE OVER THE NEXT TWO YEARS. WE ARE PRESENTLY WORKING WITH OTHER AGENCIES TO REMOVE SINGLE AGENCY OCCUPATIONS FROM PACE ON A LONGER RANGE BASIS. EVENTUALLY, WE ANTICIPATE THAT AGENCIES WILL BE EXAMINING FOR ABOUT 70 PERCENT OF THE SELECTIONS NOW FILLED FROM PACE: OPM WILL EXAMINE FOR THE REST OF THE OCCUPATIONS.

FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE WE EXPECT THAT MOST DELEGATION AUTHORITIES WILL INVOLVE CASE EXAMINING FOR GS-9 THROUGH 15 LIFE SCIENCE, COMPUTER, AND ACCOUNTANT OCCUPATIONS. THIS COVERAGE WILL EXPAND AS WE DECENTRALIZE OUR PRESENT NATIONWIDE EXAMINATIONS.

IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE, MS. WAXMAN ALSO REFERS TO THE GREAT DIFFICULTY FEDERAL AGENCIES ARE HAVING IN HIRING INDIVIDUALS IN CERTAIN OCCUPATIONS.

* * * COMPETITION FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS ESPECIALLY INTENSE FOR CERTAIN CATEGORIES OF POSITIONS FOR WHICH THE GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCES CHRONIC SHORTAGES SUCH AS ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS. FROM ALL INDICATIONS, WE BELIEVE THIS TREND WILL WORSEN IN 1981-82 WHEN THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BEGINS TO STAFF UP FOR SUCH PROJECTS AS THE MX MISSILE. AGENCIES REPORTING THE GREATEST DIFFICULTIES NOW (PARTICULARLY ON THE WEST COAST) ARE AIR FORCE AND NAVY, INSTALLATIONS OF BOTH THESE DEPARTMENTS REPORT ONLY A 50 PERCENT FILL RATE FOR THEIR VACANCIES, AN EXTREMELY LOW RATE WHICH SEVERELY UNDERCUTS AGENCIES TO FULFILL THEIR MISSIONS. THESE FIGURES ARE CONFIRMED BY OUR REGIONAL OFFICE (SEE ALSO DATA SUBMITTED BY AIR FORCE AND NAVY, ATTACHED).

AGENCIES UNANIMOUSLY VIEW THE USE OF THE AUTHORITY REQUESTED AS AN AID IN RECRUITING SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS.

OPINION

OUR DECISIONS WHICH HAVE LIMITED THE PAYMENT OF TRAVEL EXPENSES FOR PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEWS HAVE BEEN BASED ON THE RATIONALE THAT SINCE THE FUNCTION OF ASCERTAINING THE QUALIFICATIONS OF PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES IS A MATTER WITHIN THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION'S/OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT'S JURISDICTION THEN OTHER AGENCIES HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO SPEND THEIR APPROPRIATIONS FOR THIS FUNCTION. 31 COMP.GEN. 175. THE LIMITATION IS NOT DIRECTED AT PROHIBITING THE PAYMENT OF TRAVEL EXPENSES FOR PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEWS PER SE. FOR EXAMPLE, WHERE AN AGENCY HAS HAD THE AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF APPLICANTS FOR POSITIONS, WHETHER IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE OR NOT, WE HAVE HELD THAT THAT AGENCY MAY PAY THE APPLICANTS PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES. COMP.GEN. 480(1952); 38 ID. 483(1959) AND 40 ID. 221(1960). PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES, THEREFORE, MAY BE PAID WHEN THE AGENCY DETERMINES THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE POSITION WHICH THE APPLICANT SEEKS.

THE CIVIL SERVICE LAWS WERE AMENDED BY SECTION 201(A) OF THE CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978, 5 U.S.C. 1104, IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

SEC. 1104. DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY FOR PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

(A) SUBJECT TO SUBSECTION (B)(3) OF THIS SECTION--

(1) THE PRESIDENT MAY DELEGATE, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, AUTHORITY FOR PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS, INCLUDING AUTHORITY FOR COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS, TO THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT; AND

(2) THE DIRECTOR MAY DELEGATE, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, ANY FUNCTION VESTED IN OR DELEGATED TO THE DIRECTOR, INCLUDING AUTHORITY FOR COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS (EXCEPT COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES APPOINTED UNDER SECTION 3105 OF THIS TITLE), TO THE HEADS OF AGENCIES IN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH AND OTHER AGENCIES EMPLOYING PERSONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE; EXCEPT THAT THE DIRECTOR MAY NOT DELEGATE AUTHORITY FOR COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS WITH RESPECT TO POSITIONS THAT HAVE REQUIREMENTS WHICH ARE COMMON TO AGENCIES IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, OTHER THAN IN EXCEPTIONAL CASES IN WHICH THE INTERESTS OF ECONOMY AND EFFICIENCY REQUIRE SUCH DELEGATION AND IN WHICH SUCH DELEGATION WILL NOT WEAKEN THE APPLICATION OF THE MERIT SYSTEM PRINCIPLES.

(B)(1) THE OFFICE SHALL ESTABLISH STANDARDS WHICH SHALL APPLY TO THE ACTIVITIES OF THE OFFICE OR ANY OTHER AGENCY UNDER AUTHORITY DELEGATED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) OF THIS SECTION.

(2) THE OFFICE SHALL ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN AN OVERSIGHT PROGRAM TO ENSURE THAT ACTIVITIES UNDER ANY AUTHORITY DELEGATED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) OF THIS SECTION ARE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MERIT SYSTEM PRINCIPLES AND THE STANDARDS ESTABLISHED UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) OF THIS SUBSECTION.

(3) NOTHING IN SUBSECTION (A) OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS AFFECTING THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DIRECTOR TO PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS AND TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH THE CIVIL SERVICE LAWS, RULES, AND REGULATIONS.

(C) IF THE OFFICE MAKES A WRITTEN FINDING, ON THE BASIS OF INFORMATION OBTAINED UNDER THE PROGRAM ESTABLISHED UNDER SUBSECTION (B)(2) OF THIS SECTION OR OTHERWISE, THAT ANY ACTION TAKEN BY AN AGENCY PURSUANT TO AUTHORITY DELEGATED UNDER SUBSECTION (A)(2) OF THIS SECTION IS CONTRARY TO ANY LAW, RULE, OR REGULATION, OR IS CONTRARY TO ANY STANDARD ESTABLISHED UNDER SUBSECTION (B)(1) OF THIS SECTION, THE AGENCY INVOLVED SHALL TAKE ANY CORRECTIVE ACTION THE OFFICE MAY REQUIRE.

UNDER THE ABOVE AUTHORITY OPM MAY DELEGATE TO AGENCIES ITS EXAMINING AUTHORITY OR THE AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF APPLICANTS TO POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE. MS. WAXMAN STATES THAT OPM HAS ALREADY DELEGATED EXAMINING AUTHORITY TO VARIOUS AGENCIES FOR CERTAIN POSITIONS FOR WHICH THE RESPECTIVE AGENCY IS THE SOLE OR PREDOMINANT USER.

OPM HAS ALSO DELEGATED DIRECT HIRE AUTHORITY TO AGENCIES FOR SHORTAGE CATEGORY AND HARD-TO-FILL POSITIONS. WE UNDERSTAND THAT SUCH ACTIONS BY OPM EFFECTIVELY PLACES IN THE AGENCIES THE POWER TO MAKE QUALIFICATION DETERMINATION OF THE APPLICANTS TO THE POSITIONS IN QUESTION. SEE GENERALLY FPM BULLETIN 331-2, DATED NOVEMBER 8, 1979.

AS NOTED ABOVE, OUR PRIOR DECISIONS WHICH HAVE PROHIBITED AGENCIES FROM PAYING PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES TO APPLICANTS FOR POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE HAVE DONE SO NOT BECAUSE OF ANY PROHIBITION IN THE LAW. RATHER, IT HAD BEEN FELT THAT SINCE THE ROLE OF AN AGENCY WAS LIMITED TO SELECTING FROM A LIST OF ELIGIBLES AN APPLICANT WHOM THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION HAD ALREADY INVESTIGATED AND DETERMINED TO BE QUALIFIED, THERE WAS NO NECESSITY FOR THE AGENCY TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW. IT WAS THEREFORE FELT THAT AN AGENCY COULD NOT PAY FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES INCIDENT TO SUCH AN INTERVIEW.

MS. WAXMAN POINTS OUT, HOWEVER, THAT PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEWS ARE IN FACT OFTEN NECESSARY AGENCY FUNCTION PRIOR TO THE SELECTION PROCESS. SHE SAYS THAT-- AS A POLICY MATTER, OUR OFFICE HAS LONG CONSIDERED THE ABILITY OF FEDERAL AGENCIES TO PAY FOR PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW EXPENSES, AN IMPORTANT MANAGEMENT TOOL IN SECURING QUALITY PERSONNEL. SELECTION INTERVIEWS ARE A NORMAL, NATURAL AND PRACTICAL PART OF THE SELECTION PROCESS AND PROVIDE BOTH PARTIES WITH A CHANCE TO ASSESS ONE ANOTHER. THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAS ALWAYS CONSIDERED PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW EXPENSES ONE OF THE NORMAL OVERHEAD COSTS INVOLVED IN SECURING HIGH QUALITY STAFF.

MOREOVER THE THRUST OF CIVIL SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1978, WHICH HAS AUTHORIZED THE DELEGATION OF FUNCTIONS TO AGENCIES, IS TOWARDS THE IMPLEMENTATION IN FEDERAL AGENCIES OF MODERN AND EFFICIENT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES. UNDER THE AUTHORITY GRANTED IN 5 U.S.C. 1104, OPM HAS DELEGATED MORE AND MORE OF THE MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS FOR WHICH IT PREVIOUSLY HAD THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY.

CONCERNING THE EXTENT THE AUTHORITY TO PAY PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEWS WOULD BE UTILIZED IF SUCH AUTHORITY WERE GRANTED, MS. WAXMAN SAYS:

WE DO NOT ANTICIPATE A NEED TO MODIFY THE CRITERIA (IN FPM CH. 571) FOR COVERED POSITIONS. * * * WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT EVERY POSITION IN THE CATEGORIES FOR WHICH WE ARE REQUESTING AUTHORITY REQUIRES OR WARRANTS PAYMENT OF PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW EXPENSES. OUR GUIDELINES SHOULD PROBABLY PROVIDE FOR OPM TO REVIEW EACH AGENCY'S REQUEST AND TO MAKE DECISIONS ON A CASE BASIS. CERTAIN GENERAL RESTRICTIONS SHOULD PROBABLY APPLY ACROSS THE BOARD. FOR EXAMPLE, WE MIGHT RESTRICT USE OF THE AUTHORITY TO POSITIONS FOR WHICH--

-- NO LOCALLY QUALIFIED CANDIDATES CAN BE FOUND, -- SHORTAGES HAVE BEEN ACCURATELY DOCUMENTED, -- A SPECIFIED MINORITY REQUIREMENT PROBLEM EXISTS, OR -- THE INTERVIEW IS NECESSARY TO DETERMINE QUALIFICATIONS.

WE WOULD ALSO WANT TO LIMIT THE AUTHORITY TO CAREER-CONDITIONAL OR CAREER APPOINTMENTS. ADDITIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE RESTRAINTS COULD INCLUDE LIMITS ON THE NUMBER OF VISITS TO AN AGENCY, AND LIMITS ON THE NUMBER OF REIMBURSABLE VISITS FOR ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL.

WITH REGARD TO GAO'S CONCERN ABOUT POSSIBLE ABUSE OF THE AUTHORITY REQUESTED, THE MOST IMPORTANT SAFEGUARD WOULD BE THE FACT THAT REIMBURSEMENT AUTHORITY WOULD BE DELEGATED TO AGENCIES UNDER SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE AGREEMENTS. GRANTING THE AUTHORITY IN THIS MANNER WOULD PERMIT US TO MONITOR THE AUTHORITY CLOSELY, TO GATHER STATISTICAL DATA ON ITS USE, AND TO REQUIRE AGENCIES TO TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION AS WARRANTED.

IN LIGHT OF THE ABOVE, AND BEARING IN MIND THAT OUR DECISIONS PROHIBITING THE PAYMENT OF PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES WERE BASED ON OUR VIEW OF AGENCIES RESPONSIBILITIES AND NOT ON A PROHIBITION IN THE LAW, WE NOW CONCLUDE THAT AGENCIES MAY PAY THE PREEMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW TRAVEL EXPENSES OF AN APPLICANT TO THE POSITIONS IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE, IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES REQUESTED BY OPM SUBJECT TO SUCH GUIDELINES OR STANDARDS AS OPM MAY PRESCRIBE FOR AGENCIES. SEE 5 U.S.C. 1104(B)(I).