Staff Reductions in the Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior

FPCD-82-3: Published: Jan 29, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1982.

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GAO was requested to examine the reasons for the staff reductions, the considerations given to alternatives, and the procedures followed in conducting the reductions in force (RIF) at the Department of the Interior's Office of the Solicitor.

During the first quarter of fiscal year 1981, the Office employed more personnel than its authorized end-of-year ceiling. The Office adopted several measures to reduce operating expenses and shift funds to pay for salaries. Nevertheless, the Office's March 1981 financial analysis of expenses and funds available for the fiscal year showed a deficit of approximately $316,000. To reduce the $316,000 deficit and to avoid future obligations, the Deputy Solicitor: (1) eliminated essential overtime, (2) deobligated a patent contract, and (3) reduced the Office staff. These steps resulted in a savings of approximately $325,000. To avoid future obligations, he also temporarily: (1) froze promotions, (2) canceled summer intern hiring plans, and (3) filled urgent vacancies with existing staff. The Solicitor's Office followed regulations and procedures for conducting a RIF, and the decision to abolish one of the part-time positions did not violate any applicable legislation. GAO believes that RIF's are costly, inefficient, and disruptive and should only be used as a last resort when normal losses through attrition would not adequately reduce staffing levels. GAO also stated that the Office might have reduced the number of positions abolished if it had included some attrition savings in calculating its financial position. Moreover, questionable reimbursements to the Office of the Secretary resulted in substantial expenditures which, if not made, would have further mitigated the Solicitor's Office financial problems.

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