Federal Workforce:

Inappropriate Use of Experts and Consultants at Selected Civilian Agencies

GGD-91-99: Published: Jul 17, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the government's use of experts and consultants, focusing on whether: (1) agencies complied with federal requirements for making expert and consultant appointments; and (2) agencies and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) adequately monitored the appointments to ensure compliance with applicable requirements.

GAO found that: (1) 37 of the 106 expert and consultant appointments reviewed were inappropriate, primarily because agencies assigned appointees to positions that involved regular government employees' duties; (2) agency installations often did not follow internal control procedures for ensuring the proper use of experts and consultants because officials were often unaware of such procedures, there was pressure to fill vacancies, and appointees submitted incomplete forms; (3) none of the installations complied with all the Federal Personnel Manual (FPM) documentation requirements in making expert and consultant appointments and none of the quarterly reports represented an independent review of the appointees' duties to determine the appropriateness of their work; (4) 2 installations made over half of their 16 appointments with missing or inadequate resumes or standard federal employment application forms; (5) eight of nine agency installations reviewed failed to comply with the FPM requirement that they annually communicate to their appointing officials relevant information on the proper appointment of experts and consultants; (6) agency personnel offices generally did not review expert and consultant use because they either had no active personnel management evaluation program or lacked the capability to conduct independent appointment evaluations; and (7) existing legislation does not explicitly state that agencies must report on the effectiveness of their management controls over expert and consultant appointments, which allows for inappropriate appointments.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: There has been no congressional action on this recommendation.

    Matter: To achieve better control over the use of experts and consultants, Congress should amend 31 U.S.C. 1114(b) to explicitly state that inspectors general are required to evaluate the progress agencies make in establishing effective management controls over appointed experts and consultants.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress enacted P.L. 102-378 in accordance with the GAO recommendation.

    Matter: To achieve better control over the use of experts and consultants, Congress should amend 5 U.S.C. 3109 to authorize OPM to: (1) develop regulations governing the employment of appointed experts and consultants; (2) take the necessary action, including withdrawal of the authority, to ensure compliance with the law and federal documentation and reporting requirements; and (3) require agencies to comply with any corrective action that OPM directs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM developed a training module concerning the appointment of experts and consultants. The module was piloted and has since been incorporated into the OPM Basic Staffing course.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance with federal requirements governing the expert and consultant appointing authority, the Director, OPM, should ensure that personnel officials receive appropriate training on the procedures for making expert and consultant appointments and that agencies comply with the FPM requirement that agencies annually communicate to the appointing officials key aspects of FPM Chapter 304.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Acting Director, OPM, the expert and consultant appointing authority is now a continuing area of coverage in OPM onsite reviews. Savings will be achieved if OPM uncovers inappropriate use of experts and consultants and situations in which the use of the expert/consultant costs more than the use of regular employees.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance with federal requirements governing the expert and consultant appointing authority, the Director, OPM, should review, on a regular basis, agencies' use and documentation of the appointments.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As recommended by GAO, Congress enacted Public Law 102-378 in 1992 to require OPM to regulate appointments under 5 U.S.C. 3109 and to collect data on pay and days worked. OPM issued proposed regulations to implement that requirement on December 29, 1994 and issued a final rule on September 1, 1995 (60 F.R. 45647). The first annual reports from agencies, required by P.L. 102-378, were received by OPM in February 1995.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance with federal requirements governing the expert and consultant appointing authority, the Director, OPM, should issue regulations covering mandatory requirements for the employment of experts and consultants, including a prohibition on the use of experts and consultants to handle staff shortages and to expedite the process of hiring persons to other government positions.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM issued instructions and guidance to agencies by IAG Memo dated September 29, 1992, and FPM Letter 304-4 dated January 4, 1993.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance with federal requirements governing the expert and consultant appointing authority, the Director, OPM, should revise FPM guidance to: (1) define the meaning of operating duties; (2) give examples of the nonoperating duties experts and consultants can perform; and (3) specify that experts cannot do routine and continuous duties that are the responsibility of regular employees.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM will continue to monitor agency use of experts and consultants and where problems are found that are due to a lack of sufficient system of controls, will require the agency to establish a sufficient controls system to ensure the problems do not reemerge.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance with federal requirements governing the expert and consultant appointing authority, the Director, OPM, should require that agencies review the appointments as part of their internal personnel management evaluation program and, if agencies do not have an existing program, OPM should require agencies to develop a plan for establishing a personnel management evaluation program within a specified time frame.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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