Observations on the Office of the Special Counsel's Operations

FPCD-82-10: Published: Dec 2, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 2, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Office of the Special Counsel's (OSC) handling of prohibited personnel practice complaints. In its review, GAO selected a random sample of 283 cases out of 948 cases closed between October 1, 1980, and March 31, 1981.

Of the cases reviewed, OSC substantiated only one complaint. Seven others were resolved between the agency and the complainant before OSC completed its investigation, and 40 percent of its cases were closed because of insufficient evidence of any violation. OSC averaged more than 170 calendar days to process a case. GAO found that OSC operations were still hampered by the effects of a budget rescission and limited staffing. GAO found numerous problems with OSC case files. In general, the files were in disarray: information in the files was not inventoried and was usually randomly organized; records of phone calls or coordination with other OSC investigators were often scraps of papers; and file documents submitted by the complainants and records of investigators' research were not secured or anchored to the file folders and could be easily lost, misfiled, or destroyed without anyone knowing such items were missing. OSC is required to investigate Federal employee complaints and allegations involving prohibited personnel practices and may recommend corrective actions if the allegations are substantiated. However, OSC has not developed specific criteria for its staff members to follow while investigating complaints, and similar complaints may be treated differently depending on the investigator and the OSC office. While OSC is the focal point for investigating and prosecuting prohibited personnel practice complaints, the Civil Service Reform Act also gave other agencies and departments responsibility to insure that prohibited personnel practices are prevented.

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