Strong Leadership Needed To Improve Management at the Department of Labor

HRD-86-12 Published: Oct 21, 1985. Publicly Released: Oct 21, 1985.
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Highlights

GAO reviewed how the Department of Labor could improve management by: (1) identifying and handling emerging issues; (2) minimizing vulnerability in implementing and controlling management systems for efficient and effective program delivery; and (3) operating financial, procurement and automatic data processing (ADP) systems in a business-like way.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress should consider the need for: (1) stronger concern for enhancing managerial direction and control; (2) better accountability for agencywide management functions; and (3) more continuity in the top management team.
Closed – Not Implemented
In a November 1985 letter, the Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and its Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, told the Secretary of Labor that they would monitor Labor's actions to implement the recommendations. It has been more than 30 months since the letter was written; however, no hearings were held.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Labor To strengthen the Department's direction by institutionalizing key management improvements, the Secretary of Labor should: (1) show strong secretarial support for and interest in an effectively managed, efficiently operated, unified department; (2) develop a long-range planning process to help ensure that desired program and support policy decisions are achieved in a planned and orderly fashion; (3) identify and monitor key secretarial goals and objectives on a more integrated and systematic basis; (4) emphasize resolving long-standing problems requiring attention; (5) show strong concern for attracting, developing, and retaining a highly qualified, motivated, and efficient departmental work force; and (6) designate a key official to oversee the development and use of essential management systems, monitor the development and use of key performance data, including results of audits, reviews, and evaluations, and ensure accountability, performance, and a quality work force.
Closed – Implemented
The Secretary designated the Under Secretary to be the key official responsible for management, defined secretarial goals, approved agency operating plans, and implemented the Secretary's Management System to monitor and assess progress in accomplishing them.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should: (1) establish a special committee to determine what can be done to expedite Labor's rulemaking process; (2) develop recommendations and a strategy for implementation; and (3) focus attention on correcting the problem.
Closed – Implemented
The Secretary established a committee in November 1985 to develop recommendations and an implementation strategy. Component agencies have implemented specific rulemaking procedures, and a system for initiating and reviewing regulations at each major phase of the rulemaking process has been implemented at the Secretarial level.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should make the public aware that, in certain areas, it could be several years before standards are established due to their complexity.
Closed – Implemented
Labor: (1) identified the target audience of various rulemakings and developed a system for prioritizing regulations; (2) developed quick turnaround procedures for more routine regulations; and (3) began tracking regulations that are being developed.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by: (1) directing Labor's procurement executive to develop a long-term plan for improving the procurement work force and function, including training for program officials or technical personnel who carry out significant procurement functions; (2) holding managers accountable for adhering to the plan; and (3) tracking progress.
Closed – Implemented
Labor developed a long-term plan for improving its procurement function and began implementing it in September 1986. The Secretary is monitoring responsible agency managers' progress in implementing the plan.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by directing procurement managers, as well as program managers, to work with their personnel offices to focus on enhancing position skills, defining position requirements, and ensuring proper job classification.
Closed – Implemented
Labor has implemented a procurement career management program to enhance its procurement work force. Actions taken include work-force analysis and planning, specialized staff intake programs, implementing the 1102 classification standard, and arranging for HHS to provide procurement-related training to Labor employees.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by directing the Department's procurement officials to strengthen efforts already initiated to maximize competition by using presolicitation notices or other means, where feasible.
Closed – Implemented
Labor identified multiple contracting sources to expand its use of presolicitation notices, and instructed program and contracting officers to use presolicitation notices for market search purposes.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by directing the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to implement a comprehensive automated procurement data system.
Closed – Implemented
Labor obtained General Services Administration software to process contract data for the Federal Procurement Data System and to provide management reports. Labor's small purchase operations were further automated. The new departmental accounting system, which is being implemented over the next 3 years, includes a module for procurement.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by directing the procurement executive to describe the Department's problems and the needed resources required to correct deficiencies in a more complete manner in the next procurement system certification.
Closed – Implemented
Labor issued procedural instructions to its component agencies and, in the next procurement system certification, it will describe in detail the deficiencies identified and the resources needed for corrective action. The requirement for the biennial certification from the Procurement Executive Secretary that the procurement system met the approved criteria was completed in January 1987.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should enhance procurement capability by holding managers accountable for preparing annual advanced procurement plans (AAPP) that contain required elements and reflect realistic up-front assessments of needs.
Closed – Implemented
Labor issued instructions to the agencies for preparing fiscal year (FY) 1987 AAPP, which include accountability and needs assessment. The instructions were refined and updated for the FY 1988 planning process.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the senior information resources management (IRM) official and the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM) to: (1) complete the development of a departmental strategy and ADP/telecommunications plan leading to a departmental plan for IRM; (2) improve guidance on conducting inventories and monitor the process of taking the inventory; (3) adequately review and approve/disapprove agency plans, systems needs, requirements, cost-benefit analyses, and proposed deviations from generally accepted testing procedures before systems are acquired or accepted; (4) periodically conduct IRM reviews covering system utilization and potential for functional consolidation; and (5) assess staffing needs to fulfill increased responsibilities.
Closed – Implemented
Labor has taken steps to improve its IRM, including: (1) consolidating IRM functions in OASAM; (2) issuing a departmentwide IRM strategy; (3) preparing a departmental long-range IRM plan; (4) preparing IRM policies; (5) developing a program for IRM reviews; and (6) assessing staffing needs. Labor also issued planning and acquisition handbooks and implemented a formal decision-making process.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should hold the senior IRM official and other appropriate managers, including program assistant secretaries, accountable for: (1) carrying out departmental IRM planning and acquisition requirements, including preparing adequate plans and accurate inventories; (2) preparing adequate needs, requirements, and cost-benefit analyses before systems are acquired; and (3) taking appropriate action to periodically review system utilization and avoid unnecessary duplication of equipment and systems and enhance systems compatibility and interoperability within Labor.
Closed – Implemented
Labor has initiated reviews of agency systems and IRM plans in order to hold managers accountable for implementing IRM policies.
Department of Labor To ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to revise the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) information system to provide periodic reports showing the number of inspections required, planned, and performed during the year.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA assessed report deficiencies and revised the system to show the number of inspections required, planned, and performed during the year.
Department of Labor To ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to direct MSHA field managers to give more emphasis to mandatory inspections.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA issued policy directives to field managers instructing them to give more emphasis to conducting mandatory inspections. MSHA reports show that the percentage of required inspections performed increased significantly in 1985 and 1986. For 1986, 97 percent of the required inspections were completed.
Department of Labor To ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to identify ways to improve productivity, particularly that of the inspectors.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA directed its field managers to increase inspectors' productivity. Managers are held accountable for success, and efforts are being made to conduct all required mine inspections within existing staffing levels without reducing inspection quality.
Department of Labor To ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to explore the feasibility of reallocating staff among district offices.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA identified staffing imbalances, developed a reallocation plan, and begun a program of voluntary reassignment to understaffed districts.
Department of Labor To ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to determine whether additional inspectors will be necessary to conduct the required number of inspections and, if so, take appropriate steps to secure the additional number needed.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA assessed its inspector staff and has actively pursued the hiring of additional inspectors within budget levels. MSHA expects to continue hiring activities in order to maintain its authorized ceiling.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should periodically track MSHA progress and provide whatever support is necessary to enable MSHA to comply with the law.
Closed – Implemented
MSHA improved management information systems that provide quarterly reports to the Secretary on its progress in conducting required mine inspections.
Department of Labor For the long term, the Secretary of Labor should consider again seeking legislation amending section 103(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act to give MSHA more flexibility in determining the frequency of regular inspections, based on such factors as injury and fatality rates, nature of mining operations, previous compliance status, and the number of miners employed.
Closed – Not Implemented
Labor decided not to seek legislative changes. Past attempts to do so were unsuccessful and MSHA believes that it can accomplish its mission with current staff.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, in cooperation with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and other appropriate departmental officials, to assess Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) monitoring mechanisms at federal and state levels to ensure that they: (1) are working as designed; (2) are adequate to ensure that the state fiscal control and administration program will be able to identify and correct internal control problems if they still exist; and (3) provide reasonable assurance that federal and state control objectives are being achieved.
Closed – Implemented
An assessment of the monitoring tools was completed. A Policy Guidance System was implemented in December 1986, and a revised Compliance Review System was implemented in February 1987. A new Management Review System was implemented in July 1987.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, in cooperation with OIG and other appropriate departmental officials, to improve its vulnerability assessment process to ensure that it is adequate for determining the vulnerability of JTPA.
Closed – Not Implemented
GAO and Labor have a fundamental disagreement over Labor's responsibility to assess state and service delivery levels' operations. Labor believes that it is sufficiently in compliance with JTPA, Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA), Comptroller General (CG) instructions, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. GAO will address this issue in a FMFIA follow-up review.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, in cooperation with OIG and other appropriate departmental officials, to work with OMB to resolve state officials' concerns regarding JTPA audits at the state and service delivery levels.
Closed – Implemented
In July 1985, Labor revised its JTPA oversight guidance to focus review efforts at the state and service delivery levels on certain problem areas and initiated discussions between ETA and OIG on the feasibility of conducting joint reviews of related state and local internal control systems.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training to develop a comprehensive oversight strategy that clearly shows: (1) how each monitoring mechanism relates; (2) what the results will be used for; and (3) who is responsible for carrying out the oversight function.
Closed – Implemented
Labor identified its unemployment insurance oversight mechanisms and is considering whether changes should be made. Also, Labor started monitoring states' annual operating plans to determine whether: (1) milestones are being met; or (2) corrective actions are identified and implemented, and identify problems occurring nationally so that corrective actions can be taken.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training to work with the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to evaluate and possibly redesign its vulnerability assessment instrument and process for unemployment insurance to ensure that they produce reliable results and more completely cover the program.
Closed – Not Implemented
Labor fundamentally disagreed with the GAO position that its responsibility extends to state employment service agencies. Labor believes that it is in compliance with FMFIA, CG instructions, and OMB guidance. This issue is included in the GAO ongoing FMFIA follow-up review.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should address program managers' negative perceptions regarding the usefulness of internal and external audits, reviews, and evaluations.
Closed – Implemented
Labor assessed program managers' perceptions of the usefulness of Inspector General audits and reviews in November 1985 and considered their views in preparing audit plans. Labor obtained formal comments from top-level managers in January 1986.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should reassess the emphasis given to program evaluation within the Department to determine whether additional evaluations of key departmental activities would enable the Secretary to make more informed policy decisions and better control operations.
Closed – Not Implemented
Labor identified existing program evaluation activities and assessed their usefulness in addressing policy matters. The Secretary has not established additional evaluating functions at the Secretarial level.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to develop comprehensive work force planning policies and guidance under which agencies are required to establish individually tailored work force planning programs. Using its database on Labor's work force, the Secretary should periodically have the Directorate of Personnel provide agencies with analytical information on critical issues that OASAM identified relating to: (1) work force characteristics; (2) internal staff movement; (3) training and developmental needs; (4) turnover and recruitment data; and (5) data on performance appraisals and performance-related actions relating to their respective work forces.
Closed – Implemented
In April 1986, the Secretary issued an order on human resource planning that established a framework for developing and implementing agency planning systems. Using this guidance, each agency: (1) established a process for analyzing its work force needs; (2) included work force planning analyses in its budget submission; and (3) identified opportunities for more efficient use of work force.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should hold managers within each agency more accountable for carrying out their work force management responsibilities with regard to departmental and agency policies and guidance on position management, classification, and staffing.
Closed – Implemented
Labor's new human resource management policies require agency heads to hold managers more accountable for carrying out their work force management responsibilities.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, in cooperation with agencies, to: (1) establish appropriate standards for filling vacancies; (2) establish procedures for monitoring the staffing process; and (3) develop strategies for dealing with identified problem areas.
Closed – Implemented
Labor and the agencies established interim time standards in June 1986 for filling vacancies and began collecting staffing data to assess the adequacy of the standards. OASAM has implemented procedures for monitoring its staffing activities and those of the agency personnel offices.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should require that agencies establish, with OASAM guidance and assistance, more systematic procedures for developing employees for supervisory and management positions.
Closed – Implemented
Labor assessed position knowledge and skill requirements and established or revised programs to meet the requirements.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should require more rigorous implementation of training needs assessments and course evaluation methods that identify current and future training needs, so that agency and programmatic requirements are satisfied.
Closed – Implemented
Labor implemented a comprehensive 3-year program to assess and address the training needs of Department employees.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should strengthen performance management throughout the Department by requiring each agency to review the operations of its appraisal systems, with assistance and coordination provided by OASAM, to ensure that: (1) performance expectations are accurate; (2) personnel actions are based on employee performance; and (3) wide variations in the application of Labor's policies are assessed and appropriately addressed.
Closed – Implemented
Labor developed a strategy for improving performance management through better setting of performance standards, establishing a monitoring system to ensure that ratings reflect performance, and central review of performance awards.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should strengthen performance management throughout the Department by directing OASAM, in cooperation with Labor agencies, to assess supervisory training needs in the area of performance management and provide training to meet those needs.
Closed – Implemented
Labor assessed its supervisory training needs and developed more rigorous evaluation methods. New courses for Labor supervisors began in late 1987.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should implement a more systematic productivity improvement effort by holding agency managers accountable for designating focal points, demonstrating top-level support, and preparing and meeting productivity-related goals, objectives, and plans.
Closed – Implemented
In February 1986, both the Secretary and the Under Secretary issued instructions to the agencies for preparing productivity improvement plans for FY 1986 and 1987. In July 1986, the agencies were directed to submit plans for 1988, which contain the essential elements of a good productivity program.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should implement a more systematic productivity improvement effort by requiring managers to develop quantifiable, or at least observable, measures for as many positions as practicable in the department. Included in these, to the extent possible, should be customer and quality of service measures.
Closed – Implemented
Labor decided to place primary emphasis on developing performance measures for units or functions rather than for individual positions. Improved performance measures have been identified.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should implement a more systematic productivity improvement effort by directing program managers to routinely perform comparative trend and productivity analyses for their field offices.
Closed – Not Implemented
Unless directed by OMB to perform comparative trend analyses as part of the President's productivity program, Labor does not plan to require its field offices to do these analyses.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should implement a more systematic productivity improvement effort by providing effective mechanisms and incentives for identifying productivity opportunities. These should include holding managers accountable for appropriately addressing suggestions made and recognizing, through awards, awareness of any contributions toward increased productivity. Specific emphasis should be given to identifying and assessing enhancement opportunities available through increased use of computers.
Closed – Implemented
To encourage greater productivity, Labor revitalized the employee suggestion program. The agencies' 1988 productivity plans addressed special incentive programs and other efforts to increase participation in productivity improvement initiatives. Some agencies have also developed employee recognition programs.
Department of Labor To strengthen control over funds, the Secretary of Labor should hold managers accountable for complying with the Department's Administrative Control of Fund procedures to ensure that: (1) agency heads and program managers issue obligational authority within OMB apportionment; (2) agency operating officials do not incur obligations without having obligation authority; (3) agency budget officers promptly issue and distribute their limitations to limitation holders and to OASAM for recording in the accounting records; (4) the OASAM Office of Accounting records all agency limitations when received; (5) agency budget officers, OASAM, and regional administrators do not allow obligations to exceed limitations issued; (6) agency operating officials review fund status in order to minimize deficit limitation balances; and (7) the OASAM Office of Accounting notifies, in writing, responsible officials when agency limitations have a deficit balance.
Closed – Implemented
Labor reemphasized the importance of adhering to fund control procedures and agency financial managers monthly monitoring of fund status reports. Other actions include: (1) monthly departmental reviews of fund status reports; (2) assessing administrative controls over funds; and (3) revising the fund allocation form to include managerial certification of available funds.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to: (1) periodically reevaluate the integrated accounting system (IAS) financial management reports to ensure that they effectively meet managers' needs; (2) determine the comparative data needs of managers that could be met by the IAS reporting process as part of the overall report reevaluation effort; and (3) investigate the extent and causes of specific accounting document coding problems and their impact on report accuracy.
Closed – Implemented
Labor conducted limited reviews and tests of its financial management reports, investigated problems, and prepared a budget plan. It obtained agency financial managers' input to its IAS modernization implementation plans and tested ADP software to improve reporting accuracy and timeliness.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should hold agency heads and the Department's Comptroller accountable for carrying out departmental policies governing the approval of financial management improvement projects to ensure effective departmental control over them.
Closed – Implemented
Labor issued a directive in December 1985 requiring agencies to submit information relating to their improvement projects. Progress in implementing projects will be tracked through the Secretary's Management System.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to ensure that accounts receivable from penalties are adequately controlled and accounted for by requiring that area office receivables are validated and updated when implementing the new Penalty Accountability System.
Closed – Implemented
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken steps to ensure that area office receivables are validated and updated when implementing its new system.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to ensure that accounts receivable from penalties are adequately controlled and accounted for by requiring that software problems in the new system be resolved to enable processing of penalty adjustments.
Closed – Implemented
OSHA resolved the software problems in its new Penalty Accountability System.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to ensure that accounts receivable from penalties are adequately controlled and accounted for by requiring that interim measures be established to improve the reporting of receivables until the new system is working properly and implemented at all area offices.
Closed – Implemented
OSHA determined that interim measures were not needed when it resolved its system software problems.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor, in order to adequately assess whether the Department's accounting systems conform with the Comptroller General's principles, standards, and related requirements, should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to provide for: (1) departmental monitoring of agency system review efforts; and (2) conformance testing as part of agency accounting system reviews.
Closed – Implemented
OASAM and OIG have completed detailed reviews of the Department's accounting systems subject to review under FMFIA.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to ensure that planned system enhancements include provisions for prompt recording, reconciling, and correctly reporting capitalized property.
Closed – Implemented
In December 1985, Labor developed a long-range plan for systems enhancement and/or operational improvements to the current system.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management to ensure that the Office of Supply and Property Management provides for adequate separation of duties in the physical inventory process.
Closed – Implemented
In December 1985, Labor issued a directive on separation of duties in the physical inventory process.

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