Personnel Practices:

Career Appointments of Former Political and Congressional Employees

GGD-97-165: Published: Sep 2, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the appointments of 36 former political appointees and legislative branch employees to positions in the executive branch between January 1996 and March 1997, focusing on whether: (1) appropriate authorities were used and proper procedures were followed in appointing former political appointees and legislative branch employees; and (2) the circumstances surrounding any of the appointments gave the appearance of favoritism or preferential treatment in the appointment process, even if proper procedures were followed. GAO did not independently determine whether the 36 employees were qualified for the positions to which they were appointed.

GAO noted that: (1) on the basis of GAO's review of relevant personnel files and documents and discussions with agency officials, GAO believes the 18 agencies that provided career appointments to the 36 former political appointees and legislative branch employees used the appropriate appointment authority to hire each of them and followed proper procedures in making the appointments; (2) although the apropriate appointment authorities were used, the reference citations on the effecting documents for 3 of the 36 appointments were incorrect; (3) personnel officials from the employing agencies stated that the incorrect citations were due to administrative error and that corrections would be made; (4) the three appointments did not involve circumstances that, in GAO's opinion, could give the appearance of favoritism or preferential treatment; (5) however, notwithstanding use of the appropriate authority and proper procedures, the circumstances surrounding six of the appointments could, in GAO's opinion, give the appearance that the appointees had received favoritism or preferences that enhanced the appointees' prospects of appointment; (6) for example, in two cases, the vacancy announcements for the positions to be filled, which outlined the qualifications (e.g., work experience) that the agencies were seeking from applicants, appeared tailored to include specific work experiences possessed by the two appointees; (7) under such circumstances, one would expect these applicants to fare very well in the qualifications review portion of the appointment process, which they did; and (8) the remaining 30 appointments did not raise comparable questions of the appearance of favoritism or preference.

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