Federal Pay-Setting Surveys Could Be Performed More Efficiently

FPCD-81-50: Published: Jun 23, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1981.

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GAO was requested to review certain aspects of federal wage and salary surveys and to identify more efficient alternatives.

The federal government spends a great deal of time and money surveying the non-federal sector for wage and salary information. Some of this effort is repetitious and unnecessary. Of the many surveys done each year, GAO identified three that could be combined with other surveys, could be done less frequently, or could be replaced with other satisfactory information: (1) the Federal Wage System Appropriated Fund Survey; (2) the Federal Wage System Nonappropriated Fund Survey; and (3) the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Survey. Presently, the BLS annual survey to set Federal white collar pay costs $2.3 million a year and is used to determine the comparability of the current salaries of private sector jobs with the salaries of comparable Federal jobs. However, the survey is largely an unproductive effort since Presidents have seldom used its results. Thus, GAO believes that the BLS white collar survey can be done less often.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes that the differences in the industrial, occupational, and geographic coverage between the nonappropriated fund survey and the Federal Wage System Survey are too dissimilar to derive a valid linkage between its two pay systems. This method would result in increased cost to the government for higher wage increases for nonappropriated fund employees.

    Matter: Congress should direct the Office of Personnel Management, in coordination with the Department of Defense, to study the feasibility of having BLS do the nonappropriated fund surveys or linking or indexing nonappropriated fund wages to the Federal Wage System appropriated fund pay system.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Effective in 1986, the Employment Cost Index will be used biannually to update the 1985 Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Survey results. This was approved by the President's Pay Agent.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Federal Pay Comparability Act of 1970 (5 U.S.C. 5305) to eliminate the requirement to conduct the comparability survey each year and to provide for interim-year pay adjustments by using the BLS Employment Cost Index.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO has no indication that Congress plans to insert legislation to amend the Prevailing Rate System Act of 1972.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Prevailing Rate Systems Act of 1972 making BLS responsible for conducting the blue-collar appropriated fund surveys as part of its area wage survey programs.


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