Skip to main content

Personnel Practices: Conversions of Employees from Political to Career Positions May 2005-May 2009

GAO-10-688 Published: Jun 28, 2010. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2010.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


Political appointees in the federal government sometimes seek appointments to career competitive and other positions which, unlike political appointments, do not terminate at the end of an administration. 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 political to career conversions occurring during the period from May 1, 2005, through May 30, 2009, and (2) whether appropriate authorities were used and proper procedures were followed in making these conversions at the GS-12 level and above.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Personnel Management To help ensure that federal agencies are adhering to merit system principles and following proper procedures in making conversions of political to career positions, the Director, OPM should review five conversions we identified where it appears that certain agencies did not adhere to merit system principles, did not follow proper procedures, or engaged in other improprieties in making these conversions and determine whether additional actions are needed.
Closed – Implemented
OPM, in a December 16, 2010, letter to GAO, indicated that it has reviewed each of the 5 cases we forwarded to them to determine whether the agencies involved followed appropriate authorities and procedures. In 2 cases, OPM found that two Schedule C political appointees were converted improperly to career competitive service positions and has referred both cases to the US Office of Special Counsel for investigation of possible prohibited personnel practices. In another case, OPM found flaws in the way Treasury assessed candidates for the position but found nothing to suggest that the agency manipulated the hiring process to benefit the appointee or that partisan politics played a role in the appointment. OPM has advised Treasury to review its assessment practices and make needed improvements. In another case, OPM found that Veterans' Affairs (VA) used the wrong veterans' appointing authority, but again found no evidence that the agency manipulated the hiring process to benefit the appointee or that partisan politics played a role in the appointment. VA subsequently properly appointed the individual to a different competitive service position. In the final case, OPM found that the appointment adhered to merit system principles and was free of political influence. OPM provided GAO copies of the decision letters sent to the respective agencies.

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Career planningEmployeesExecutive agenciesExecutive branch appointmentsFederal agenciesFederal employeesGovernment employeesGovernment job appointmentsOperations researchPosition descriptionsPresidential appointmentsSystems analysisPolicies and procedures