Personnel Practices:

Circumstances Surrounding U.S. Customs Service's Use of Schedule A Appointment Authority

GAO-01-1103: Published: Sep 13, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2001.

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George H. Stalcup
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The Treasury Department, on behalf of the Customs Service, requested Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approval for Schedule A appointment authority for 10 positions for oversight policy and direction of sensitive law enforcement activities. Treasury's request stated that "due to the sensitive nature of the operations, these positions require a unique blend of special characteristics, skills and abilities that cannot be announced to the general public, and for which it is not practical to examine." According to OPM officials, no detailed criteria are applied when OPM considers such requests. OPM approved the request primarily because Treasury argued that the positions were sensitive in nature, involved law enforcement activities, and were impracticable to advertise and examine for. In using the Schedule A authority between September 1998 and January 2001, Customs made nine appointments to various positions. GAO found that circumstances surrounding five of the nine appointments can give the appearance of inconsistency in the application of the Schedule A appointment authority or possible favoritism toward former political employees. OPM reviews agencies' use of appointment authorities, including Schedule A and other excepted appointments, every four to five years. The most recent review of Customs was for appointments made in 1999. OPM also conducts occasional surveys that require agencies to justify the continuing need for each of its appointment authorities.

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