Better Guidance Is Needed for Determining When Examining Authority Should Be Delegated to Federal Agencies

FPCD-82-41: Published: Jul 1, 1982. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 1982.

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Rosslyn S. Kleeman
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GAO was asked to review the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) program for delegating to Federal agencies the authority to examine candidates for Federal jobs. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 authorized OPM to delegate examining authority as a means of improving the timeliness of the hiring process and the quality of Federal job candidates. OPM announced plans to withdraw some of the delegations that had been made. The proposed withdrawals were based on the new Director's conclusion that the statute did not allow the extent of delegation which had occurred under the previous Director.

GAO found that agencies were highly satisfied with the results of their own examining, both in terms of improved timeliness and the quality of hires. Neither GAO work nor OPM audits have disclosed problems or abuses that warrant withdrawing examining authority. Centralized examining, which existed before the Reform Act, resulted in delays in filing positions and in agency dissatisfaction with the quality of candidates referred for selection. OPM studies have also concluded that agency examining has resulted in improved timeliness in the hiring process with few problems. It is unlikely that OPM will be able to handle an increased examining workload and still maintain the timeliness encouraged by the Act. OPM reduced both its examining and job information service functions as agency examining expanded. Further, based on previous experience with centralized examining, recentralizing the process may result in hiring less qualified candidates. OPM criteria and policy guidance used to determine whether to approve requests for delegation of examining authority fails to: (1) consider the benefits resulting from previous delegations; and (2) specify what costs should be reported to determine the cost effectiveness of delegations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. However, it has not implemented withdrawals in a strict fashion. As a result, very few delegations have been withdrawn.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should not withdraw current delegated examining authority without first determining that an abuse exists or that OPM could provide timely examining in a more cost-effective manner.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes that its approach to delegations is based on law and forms an adequate basis for determining when to delegate examining authority.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should determine through analysis of audits and other OPM studies the factors that make delegations of examining authority successful in improving timeliness and quality of hires and use them along with cost information in deciding whether to approve future requests for delegated examining authority.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OPM has initiated a program of working with agencies during audits by its area office staff to improve the reporting of cost data. This program has become a continuing part of the OPM audit effort.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should require agencies to report appropriate and accurate costs and follow up during audits on the cost information so that OPM can determine the cost effectiveness of delegations compared to OPM examining.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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