Personnel Practices:

Presidential Transition Conversions and Appointments: Changes Needed

GGD-94-66: Published: May 31, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the propriety of career appointments in the Civil Service and the Senior Executive Service (SES) during the 1992 presidential transition; and (2) federal workers' allegations of improper career appointments of political appointees, agency reorganizations, and rule changes.

GAO found that: (1) 25 of the 33 federal departments and agencies surveyed had 121 conversions and noncompetitive appointments from January 1992 through March 1993; (2) all of the conversions and appointments met basic procedural requirements, but in nine cases, the appointees may have received preferential treatment; (3) six of the appointments were exempt from the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) preappointment review because the employees had reinstatement rights earned through their prior career status or were being appointed to the excepted service; (4) the other noncompetitive appointments under the Ramspeck Act were also not subject to any preappointment review; (5) eight additional cases involved noncompetitive appointees returned to congressional service for brief periods of time and OPM ordered two of these persons removed from their positions; (6) OPM suspended SES processing during the 1992 presidential transition at only five agencies where the agency head was resigning because neither the White House nor the transition team requested other suspensions; (7) 76 allegations of improper personnel practices were substantiated and 163 were unsubstantiated; and (8) 52 other allegations involving a variety of practices were referred to the appropriate agency inspectors general for their review.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since Congress repealed the Ramspeck Act, this recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Matter: To provide oversight of these noncompetitive appointments, Congress may wish to direct OPM to review noncompetitive appointments as part of its conversion review process.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress took the recommendation one step further and repealed the Ramspeck Act as part of P.L. 104-65.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the Ramspeck Act to preclude its use as a noncompetitive appointment authority while an individual is actively serving in a career status position. This could be accomplished by restricting the act's use to one noncompetitive appointment during the 1-year period of eligibility.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress took the recommendation one step further and repealed the Ramspeck Act in P.L. 104-65.

    Matter: Congress should consider amending the Ramspeck Act to specifically preclude individuals from returning to Congress for short periods to renew their eligibility. To accomplish this, the act could be amended to: (1) set a minimum time for the last period of congressional service; or (2) preclude or limit eligibility if the latest congressional staff position was accepted when the appointing Member of Congress had announced his or her retirement or was not reelected, or when the length of the appointment would be limited for budgetary reasons.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM agreed with the recommendation and is adopting this recommendation during the next presidential transition when the bulk of the conversions occur.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OPM oversight of conversions of political appointees to career positions, the Director, OPM, should expand OPM preappointment review coverage to include individuals currently exempted on the basis of prior career service and excepted service appointments.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OPM does not plan to adopt this recommendation because OPM officials believe that existing controls are adequate to protect against improper conversions of noncareer SES appointees to career SES appointments. Recent GAO work on conversions did not reveal any abuses that the recommendation was intended to remedy. Therefore, GAO believes that this recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: To preserve the flexibility of new agency heads appointed after presidential transitions, the Director, OPM, should suspend all SES appointment processing during future transition periods. In line with current OPM policy, agencies should be able to request SES appointment processing in special circumstances.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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