Federal Workforce:

New Authority To Make and Extend Temporary Appointments

GGD-86-111BR: Published: Jul 28, 1986. Publicly Released: Aug 7, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO studied federal agencies' use of their authority to employ temporary workers without the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) approval, focusing on: (1) the perceived merits and drawbacks of the temporary employment authority; and (2) how OPM is monitoring agencies to ensure that they properly implement their authority.

GAO found that: (1) OPM delegated its authority in order to help decrease employment costs; and (2) temporary employees cost less because they receive no fringe benefits and can be dismissed using streamlined procedures. Agencies believe that the use of temporary employees is beneficial because it: (1) helps agencies handle peak work loads; (2) helps agencies meet extended staffing needs; (3) requires less time to fill vacancies; (4) fosters the employment of specialized individuals to supplement career staff for special projects; (5) helps to fill seasonal or emergency positions; (6) can help agencies meet affirmative action goals; and (7) helps temporary employees develop skills they need to become more competitive for permanent positions. GAO also found that labor unions and some agency officials believe that the use of the temporary employment authority can be detrimental because: (1) agencies could abuse the authority to inexpensively fill permanent positions; (2) temporary employees have little protection against dismissal; (3) high turnover among temporary employees can hamper productivity; and (4) it may tend to undermine the principles of competitive civil service. In addition, GAO found that: (1) OPM and some agencies monitor the use of the authority; (2) several agencies plan no additional monitoring of their use of the authority; and (3) the number of temporary white-collar employees in the federal government increased 22.4 percent from 1984 to 1985 and the number of temporary blue-collar employees increased 13.1 percent during the same period.

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