OPM Revolving Fund:

Benchmarking Could Aid OPM's Efforts to Improve Customer Service

GGD-92-18: Published: Jan 21, 1992. Publicly Released: Jan 21, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO followed up on the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) efforts to improve customer service and the timeliness of personnel background investigations, subsequent to the actions OPM took as a result of a previous GAO report.

GAO found that: (1) the number of cases OPM had on hand decreased and case timeliness improved after OPM acquired additional full-time staff resources; (2) OPM increased its investigator staff from 495 full-time investigators in fiscal year (FY) 1987 to 921 in FY 1990 and, as a result, average case closure time decreased from 216 to 167 days; (3) the most current OPM timeliness data indicated that the average case closure time increased from 167 days in FY 1991 to 183 days in February 1991 and 186 days in March 1991; (4) OPM has been able to more timely complete investigations, but it has not always provided the 35-, 75-, or 120-day service requested by its customers; (5) in FY 1990, OPM took an average of 102 days to fill customer requests, an average of 2 months longer than requested; (6) 30 of the 82 personnel security officers surveyed said that such delays resulted in a loss of productivity, high employee turnover, low employee morale, and difficulty in recruiting, hiring, and carrying out personnel actions; (7) OPM management has recognized the importance of improving productivity to help increase timeliness and has been automating some processes to enhance productivity; and (8) if OPM could improve the productivity of its lower-performing Federal Investigations Divisions (FID) to the levels of its average or higher-performing divisions, it could potentially increase its output to a level equivalent to having had an additional 94 to 309 staff years in FY 1990, amounting to potential savings of $2.9 million to $9.5 million.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An ongoing benchmarking process is now in place. Performance data is compared among regions and a clearinghouse for best practices has been established. This is expected to be a continuous effort and an integral part of the Federal Investigations Program management. There is no need to followup further, as adoption of best practices should be a continuous effort.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should instruct the Deputy Director and the Associate Director for Investigations to jointly: (1) continuously analyze the productivity performance of the various investigation processes in each FID; (2) determine reasons for productivity differences, including differences in work processes, methods, or practices among FID with different performance levels; and (3) have all FID adopt best practices, if appropriate to their individual circumstances.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A reduced workload has made the consideration of increased staffing unnecessary.

    Recommendation: If productivity increases achieved through systematic productivity improvement efforts do not result in fully meeting customers' timeliness needs, then OPM should assess the need for additional resources for doing investigations.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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