Federal Personnel Management:

OPM Reliance on Agency Oversight of Personnel System Not Fully Justified

GGD-93-24: Published: Dec 8, 1992. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should rely on agency personnel management evaluations (PME) as the primary method for personnel program effectiveness and compliance oversight.

GAO found that: (1) because of reduced staffing levels and resources, OPM increasingly relied on agencies and PME to oversee the civil service system; (2) larger agencies administered more PME than smaller agencies, and PME did not address many important personnel issues; (3) because of sporadic evaluation administration, a lack of updated evaluation standards, and the questionable quality of evaluation results, OPM should not rely on PME for oversight assistance; (4) agencies' ability to ensure adequate PME staffing, evaluation frequency, enforcement of standards were limited by budget constraints and a lack of legal authority; and (5) PME information can be used for evaluating agency internal controls and an alternative agency internal control review.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: There has been no congressional action regarding these recommendations. GAO is continuing to review the status of human resources oversight and may again make recommendations to Congress concerning the need for internal agency oversight of human resource programs.

    Matter: If OPM maintains that PME regulations are not necessary, the Civil Service Subcommittee, House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service should consider whether it wants to mandate by law that agencies have PME programs, that OPM publish program and operational standards, and that agencies follow the OPM standards.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OPM is reluctant to issue regulations mandating PMEs because its role has changed from strict enforcement to advisor. However, OPM said it would not object to legislation mandating PMEs.

    Recommendation: The Acting Director, OPM, should strengthen agency PME programs by issuing regulations that require agencies to: (1) establish and implement PME programs; and (2) follow OPM standards in structuring PME programs and doing PMEs.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Previously OPM said that, at its May 1993 interagency PME conference, agencies had been virtually unanimous in rejecting governmentwide uniform and mandatory OPM standards. But, OPM had said previously that it was continuing to work on developing discretionary OPM standards and would do so in the context of any recommendations of the National Performance Review. Also, OPM is continuing to work with agencies to identify indicators of personnel program effectiveness for possible use by agencies.

    Recommendation: The Acting Director, OPM, should strengthen agency PME programs by publishing program and operational PME standards. In developing these standards, OPM should consider standards already published for evaluations, audits, and inspections. OPM should work with agencies in developing and implementing the standards.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Previously, OPM said this recommendation was discussed, with OMB participation, at the OPM May 1993 PME conference. OPM had said previously that the relationship between PME and management controls would be considered, with agency input, in updating guidance to agencies on the role and content of agency PME programs. The targeted completion date was April 1994. Since then, OPM has issued the Good Government Framework, which it says provides agencies the flexibility to make use of any means they see fit to ensure effective agency internal HRM accountability.

    Recommendation: The Acting Director, OPM, should strengthen agency PME programs by consulting with OMB and then providing guidance to agencies on the relationships that should exist among agency personnel programs, agency PME programs, and agency internal control programs. Issues that should be addressed are the use of PMEs as alternative internal control reviews and the reporting of identified material weaknesses in the agencies' Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act annual reports.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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