Personnel Practices: Conversions of Employees from Noncareer to Career Positions May 2001 - April 2005

GAO-06-381 Published: May 01, 2006. Publicly Released: May 25, 2006.
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Highlights

A federal employee conversion occurs whenever an individual changes from one personnel status or service to another without a break in federal government service of more than 3 days. This report focuses on conversions of individuals from noncareer to career positions. Federal agencies must use appropriate authorities and follow proper procedures in making these conversions. GAO was asked to determine for departments and selected agencies (1) the number and characteristics of all noncareer to career conversions occurring during the period from May 1, 2001, through April 30, 2005, and (2) whether appropriate authorities were used and proper procedures were followed in making these conversions at the GS-12 level and above.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Personnel Management To help ensure that federal agencies are following appropriate authorities and proper procedures in making conversions of noncareer to career positions, the Director of OPM should review the 18 conversions we identified where it appears that certain agencies did not use appropriate authorities and/or follow proper procedures in making these conversions and determine whether additional actions are needed.
Closed – Implemented
In its 60-day letter, the Director of OPM directed its Human Capital Leadership Merit System Accountability Division (HCLMSAD) to begin a review of the 18 conversions that we identified. OPM's HCLMSAD completed its investigation of these conversions. Nine of the 18 cases identified by GAO belonged to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Based on this review, OPM agreed with our preliminary findings in six of the cases, identifying corrective actions for four cases, and determined four cases should be referred to the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG). No action was deemed necessary for the ninth case. Of the remaining nine cases, OPM concurred with us in six cases. In one case, OPM had no oversight authority and had no access to the appropriate documents. In two cases, due to employee turnover and poor recordkeeping practices by the agencies involved, according to OPM's Director, neither the documents nor the appropriate staff existed for OPM to make a determination as to whether a serious appointment violation occurred. OPM stated that it would advise all of these agencies on the appropriate corrective actions to be taken and would follow-up to ensure each agency has addressed the problem. OPM's Director stated that of these cases it did not uncover any systemic problems that would require investigation by either an agency OIG or the Office of Special Counsel.
Office of Personnel Management To help ensure that federal agencies are following appropriate authorities and proper procedures in making conversions of noncareer to career positions, the Director of OPM should determine whether conversions to career excepted service positions should be subject to OPM review--such as through the pre-appointment review OPM conducts of other conversions during presidential election periods, and/or during OPM's periodic audits of agencies' examining and hiring activities, and if so, determine what information agencies should provide on such conversions.
Closed – Implemented
In its 60-day letter, the Director of OPM stated that OPM will review its policies and procedures for the review and approval of non-career to career conversions. In a December 19, 2006, letter from OPM's Director to Representatives Waxman and Davis, the Director stated that OPM reviewed its procedures for review and approval of noncareer to career conversions and determined no changes are necessary at this time. OPM stated that it would continue to provide guidance and oversight to the agencies in noncareer to career conversions.

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