The Need to Improve Holiday Administration Overseas

ID-78-7: Published: Dec 12, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 1977.

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GAO previously reported to Congress that the degree to which holidays were being observed overseas appeared to be inappropriate. The Department of State advised its diplomatic and consular posts of these findings and asked them to review their holiday observance policies. The posts were told that they should observe only local holidays where failure to do so would be contrary to the interests of the United States, but the posts were not specifically instructed to reduce the number of holidays observed.

U.S. Embassies in the 17 countries originally reviewed recognized an average of 19.8 holidays in 1973 and 19.1 in 1976. According to 1977 holiday schedules, these Embassies will recognize an average of 18.2 holidays. The decrease in 1977 is largely because the Embassy in Laos reduced the number of holidays it recognized to 14, down from 30 in 1973 and 25 in 1976. It would appear that the posts need stronger urging if the number of holidays recognized overseas are to be significantly reduced. In October 1977, the Civil Service Commission asked federal departments and agencies to comment on proposed guidelines for observing holidays in foreign areas. The guidelines emphasize giving American and foreign national employees only those holidays which are their official holidays unless the employees are placed on annual leave for the day or the annual pay of foreign national employees is reduced to reflect additional non-workdays resulting from observing federal holidays. The guidelines appear to be sufficiently flexible to cover the varying circumstances within and between foreign countries and specific enough, if properly implemented, to reduce the number of lost workdays.

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