Implementation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998

GGD-00-210R: Sep 29, 2000

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Vacancies Reform Act's implementation, focusing on whether agencies were: (1) notifying Congress and GAO of all reportable vacancies and temporary appointments; (2) submitting timely notifications of vacancies, appointments of acting officials, and nominations to fill vacant positions; and (3) adhering to the 210 day time limit for temporary service.

GAO noted that: (1) between November 21, 1998, and June 30, 2000, the 11 agencies together, on the basis of information they provided for this review, incurred 60 presidential appointment and Senate confirmation vacancies and filled those vacancies with 58 acting officials; (2) GAO determined that a majority of those vacancies and acting officials had been reported to GAO; (3) however, as of July 13, 2000, GAO had not been notified of 8 vacancies and 12 acting officials; (4) together, these 20 instances of nonreporting represented about 17 percent of the 118 reportable vacancies and acting officials; (5) GAO has since received 12 of the 20 notices, as of September 25, 2000; (6) the 11 agencies were more likely to notify GAO of a vacancy and less likely to notify GAO of an acting official; (7) the reporting records of the 11 agencies varied, ranging from 5 agencies reporting all vacancies and acting officials to GAO, to 1 agency reporting less than half as of July 13, 2000; (8) many of the vacancy and acting official notices that GAO received between November 21, 1998, and July 13, 2000, took 4 or more weeks to arrive, counting from the date the vacancy or acting service began; (9) this length of time to arrive at GAO was the case for 56 percent of the vacancy notifications and 47 percent of the acting official notifications; (10) the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 requires agency heads notify Congress and GAO immediately upon the occurrence of the triggering event, although "immediately" is not defined in the Vacancies Reform Act; (11) since July 1999, agencies have been instructed by a White House memorandum to send notifications to the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which, after recording information, is to route them to the Office of Management and Budget, which is simultaneously transmit them to Congress and GAO; (12) the length of time that notices have taken to reach GAO has improved since the first several months after the Vacancies Reform Act took effect; (13) the median number of days dropped from 44 days to 27 days for vacancy notices and from 42 days to 21 days for acting official notices between the first approximately 7-month period and the most 7-month period under the Vacancies Reform Act; and (14) GAO found that three acting officials--two Acting Inspectors General and one Acting Chief Financial Officer--had served longer in these positions than the Vacancies Reform Act permits.