Personnel Practices:

Propriety of Career Appointments Granted Former Political Appointees

GGD-92-51: Published: Feb 12, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the career appointments that agencies granted to employees who held either noncareer Senior Executive Service (SES) or Schedule C appointments before their career appointments, focusing on: (1) whether the appointments adhered to merit system principles dealing with fair and open competition and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) implementing regulations; and (2) OPM oversight of the appointments.

GAO found that: (1) the propriety of conversions and agencies' adherence to merit system principles are difficult to ensure, because officials can easily give the appearance that fair and open competition was achieved when it was not; (2) of 46 conversions made in the period February 1988 through December 1989, 37 appeared proper, 7 were questionable, and 2 did not fully comply with merit staffing requirements; (3) OPM has established a review process that has identified and prevented some improper conversions; and (4) the subjectivity in the selection process will continue to make it difficult for OPM to oversee conversions.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO's most current work on conversions showed that OPM and agencies have improved their own oversight. Thus, GAO does not believe this recommendation continues to be applicable.

    Matter: Should Congress believe that additional measures are desirable to monitor conversions and supplement the OPM review process, Congress may wish to consider requiring agency Inspectors General to periodically review the propriety of conversions in their agencies and report the results to the agency heads and Congress.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On February 21, 1992, OPM directed its examining offices to review the propriety of agency requests for certificates of eligibles that involve candidates that are current or former political appointees using specified procedures.

    Recommendation: To strengthen its oversight of conversions of Schedule C and noncareer SES employees to career appointments, the Director, OPM, should ensure that each region establishes procedures to be used by its examining offices to identify and review all conversions within their jurisdictions.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While OPM initially disagreed with the recommendation to review conversions in cases where persons have reinstatement eligibility, the follow-on report entitled "Personnel Practices: Presidential Transition Conversions and Appointments: Changes Needed," (GAO/GGD-94-66) again showed the need for this review. OPM has since agreed to review these types of conversions. This substantially fulfills the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen its oversight of conversions of Schedule C and noncareer SES employees to career appointments, the Director, OPM, should revise the review process to include the pre-appointment review of conversions where the: (1) employee selected is eligible for reinstatement into the competitive service on the basis of prior career service; or (2) agency has been granted delegated examining or direct hire authority.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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