During their first year of operations, the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Office of Special Counsel were hindered in carrying out their functions by several problems: lack of resources, lack of sufficient office space, and lack of technical and advisory assistance. Further problems exist because there is uncertainty concerning the two agencys' authority with respect to one another. Their intended legal relationship is not clearly defined in the Civil Service Reform Act or the President's Reorganization Plan. Because of this uncertainty, the Board has proposed legislation which would separate the two offices into totally independent agencies. The Office of the Special Counsel was established to investigate and prosecute violations of prohibited personnel practices within the Federal Government, including unlawful political activity and reprisals against whistleblowers. It also receives and transmits to the agency involved allegations of violation of law, rule or regulation, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, and danger to public health and safety. The Merit Systems Protection Board was established to hear and decide employee appeals, conduct special studies of the merit systems, review regulations of the Office of Personnel Management, and act on requests and complaints filed by the Special Counsel. During the year, the Board took a number of steps to improve the timeliness of the appeals process and significantly reduced the case backlog carried over from the Civil Service Commission. Several Federal agencies and employee organizations told GAO that the new appeals procedures are too legalistic and formal and that more information is needed by Federal employees on the organization and functions of the Board and Special Counsel.
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