Administrative Law Judges:

Allegations of Interference by the Department of the Interior

GGD-93-6: Published: Oct 2, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether: (1) there was evidence that the Department of the Interior's management actions might have compromised administrative law judges' (ALJ) decisional independence; (2) there was evidence that Interior improperly influenced an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) decision to classify eight Indian probate ALJ positions at the GS-15 grade level; and (3) reporting to officials below the agency head has created concerns among ALJ in other agencies regarding their decisional independence.

GAO found that: (1) 7 of the 8 Indian probate ALJ at Interior and the former chief ALJ believe that Interior took certain actions against them that improperly interfered with their decisional independence; (2) the Indian probate ALJ believe that Interior improperly influenced the OPM decision to classify their positions at the GS-15 level; (3) the information presented in OPM classification reports and in a report prepared by one of the Indian probate ALJ adequately supported the OPM decision; (4) in making its classification decision, OPM made on-site desk audits because Interior submitted conflicting data to support its recommendation that the Indian probate ALJ remain at the GS-15 grade level and did not have resources to do on-site desk audits; (5) 86 percent of ALJ interviewed from 30 agencies other than Interior said that they had experienced no problems of interference by agency management and had no problem with the level of reporting within their agencies; and (6) 55 percent of ALJ surveyed believed that a separate ALJ agency would enhance ALJ decisional independence.

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