Equal Opportunity:

How To Make Special Emphasis Programs an Effective Part of Agencies' EEO Activities

FPCD-80-55: Published: Aug 27, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 27, 1980.


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Special emphasis programs were established in federal agencies because women and minorities perceived that their needs were not being adequately considered or met in existing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs. There are five government-wide programs: (1) the Federal Women's Program; (2) the Hispanic Employment Program; (3) the Selective Placement Program for the Handicapped; (4) the Minority Outreach and Upward Mobility Program; and (5) the Veterans Employment Program. Other special emphasis programs have been established within individual agencies. The number and types of special emphasis programs have grown rapidly; however, little is known about how effective these programs have been in serving the needs of their constituents and helping the agencies meet EEO goals.

GAO found that special emphasis program goals need to be integrated into agencies' overall EEO goals. Special emphasis programs are loosely operated and do not set out specific goals, resource requirements, timetables, program costs, and activities. There is no accountability for resources invested compared to achievements obtained. Top management's participation in and commitment to special emphasis programs vary greatly. Definition of the expected role of coordinators is not clear. Program evaluations need to be made for determining the effectiveness of special emphasis programs and coordinators. Coordinators and agency management must have a clear understanding of what is expected. There is confusion over the coordinator role and program goals. Differences over the appropriate role of coordinators stem, in part, from the fact that guidance on the roles and activities of coordinators for the Women's and Hispanic programs have been isued piecemeal over a number of years. Criteria for determining when special emphasis program coordinators are needed and whether they should serve full time or on a collateral duty basis are vague. Line management and agency officials generally do not participate in planning for special emphasis programs. Planning is essential to the success of special emphasis programs. Evaluations of special emphasis programs are seldom made. Consequently, some coordinators are inactive, there is no feedback on problems, and progress toward achieving program goals is not reported.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should: review the range of roles and activities that special emphasis program coordinators are now performing; determine the appropriate role and activities; publish governmentwide guidelines on their roles and activities which can apply to all special emphasis program coordinators; provide additional technical assistance and guidance to agencies in setting up special emphasis programs; publish and disseminate model agency program plans and activities; and establish and publish criteria in the Federal Personnel Manual for appointing and selecting coordinators. The Director should also prepare criteria to help agencies establish a management system applicable to all special emphasis programs. The management system should require: the setting of program goals; the planning of activities to meet goals within established timeframes; the establishing of program evaluation criteria and accountability on the part of agency managers and coordinators for program costs and activities; and the reporting of special emphasis program activities and progress to top-level management and line managers to keep them apprised of goals, milestones, problems, and accomplishments. Once agencies have established management systems for special emphasis programs, OPM should include in its annual report to Congress the cost of operating these programs and their accomplishments.

    Agency Affected:

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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