The District of Columbia Government Should Determine Its Work Force Needs

FPCD-79-21: Published: Apr 4, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 1979.

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Over half of the budget of the District of Columbia is used for personnel, making cost control in this area very important. In 1970, Congress established the Nelsen Commission to determine ways of promoting economy and efficiency while improving services within the District government. Among other things, it recommended that every agency with over 50 employees determine its staffing needs annually, based on rational work measurement methods, and that the Executive Office of the Mayor control the system used to determine staffing levels.

The District's Office of Budget and Management Systems has not sought staffing plans from the commissions and agencies as the Nelsen Commission advised. GAO reviewed six District departments and found that five of them do not set work force requirements or prepare staffing plans, but base these decisions on experience and managerial judgment; the sixth department had a formal staffing program but only for its own use. Throughout the District government, only annual increases in staffing over the previous year's level need to be justified, and even this provision excludes positions funded by Federal grants. The District controls its work force by imposing arbitrary ceilings on employment without regard to actual needs, because planning would require a large staff. Although work measurement occurs in various departments on a fragmentary basis, the District has no policy or office to regulate it. The importance of work measurement in staff planning lies in the efficiencies and savings it can produce, but it is irrelevant where employment levels have been set by court orders, union contracts, and political pressure. Without systematic measurement and planning procedures, the District does not know how many employees it needs or how to allot them. Also, approaches to the problem show too much variation among government departments.

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  • employment icon, source: GAO

    Priority Open Recommendations:

    Department of Labor
    GAO-19-395SP: Published: Apr 3, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2019.

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