GAO'S Proposed Human Capital Legislation:
Views of the Employee Advisory Council
GAO-03-1020T: Published: Jul 16, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2003.
The Comptroller General formed the Employee Advisory Council (EAC) about 4 years ago to be fully representative of the GAO population and advise him on issues pertaining to both management and employees. The members of the EAC represent a variety of employee groups and almost all employees outside of the senior executive service (more than 3,000 of GAO's 3,200 employees or 94 percent). The EAC operates as an umbrella organization that incorporates representatives of GAO's long-standing employee organizations including groups representing the disabled, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, veterans, and women, as well as employees in various pay bands, attorneys, and administrative and professional staff. As established in our charter, the Employee Advisory Council serves 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 it represents while being sensitive to the mutual interests of all employees, regardless of their grade, band, or classification group; proposing solutions to concerns raised by employees, as appropriate; providing input by assessing and commenting on GAO policies, procedures, plans, and practices; and, communicating issues and concerns of the Comptroller General and other senior managers to employees. In preparing for our testimony today, the EAC considered the results of discussions with constituents, and input from Council representatives, including information gathered from employees during the initial introduction of the proposal and comments provided on the Comptroller General's revised proposal. Although we have limited quantitative data in this regard and recognize that not all employees have the same opinions regarding all provisions of the proposed legislation, we believe our testimony is representative of a substantial cross-section of GAO employees.
In summary, GAO employees generally support many of the provisions in the proposed legislation. For example, most employees expressed support for the provision to make GAO's authority to offer voluntary early retirement permanent, provisions to enhance vacation time for upper-level hires and relocation expenses deemed necessary by the Comptroller General to recruit and retain top employees, and the provision to establish an exchange program with the private sector. However, many employees have expressed concerns about the proposals that affect pay. Specifically, many staff are concerned about the potential negative impact of the change in the basis for annual salary increases, although some staff recognize the potential benefits for additional reward and management flexibility. To a lesser extent, staff are concerned about changes to pay protections provided under traditional federal employment rules. Staff have differing opinions on the provision to change GAO's name to the Government Accountability Office. The EAC recognizes and appreciates the efforts the Comptroller General has made to address employees' concerns regarding provisions affecting pay by (1) providing assurances that the new system will sustain employees' purchasing power and provide parity with prevailing locality pay, (2) proposing short- and longer-term modifications to GAO's performance management system, and (3) incorporating a 2-year transition period for implementation of the new system. We hope that if the legislation is enacted, the Comptroller General will continue to be responsive to the concerns of employees as the agency moves forward in implementing these changes.