Closure of OIG Audit of the Appropriateness, Accuracy, and Timeliness of Processing Personnel Actions

Published by the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General on 2011-03-24.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                               UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
                                      OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

                                                                                                         Audit Services
                                                        March 24, 2011


TO:                    Robert Buggs
                       Chief Human Capital Officer
                       Human Capital and Client Services
                       Office of Management

FROM:                  Keith West /s/
                       Assistant Inspector General for Audit

SUBJECT:               Closure of OIG Audit of the Appropriateness, Accuracy, and Timeliness of
                       Processing Personnel Actions
                       Control Number ED-OIG/A19I0005

This memorandum advises you of the closure of our audit of the Appropriateness, Accuracy, and
Timeliness of Processing Personnel Actions. We will not be issuing an audit report. The
objectives of the audit were to determine: (1) the length of time to process various non-hiring
personnel actions; (2) whether actions are being processed in accordance with applicable policies
and regulations; and (3) whether failure to process actions in a timely manner resulted in any
salary overpayments or underpayments.

To accomplish our objectives, we gained an understanding of internal control applicable to the
Department’s processing of non-hiring personnel actions. We reviewed applicable laws and
regulations, Department policies and procedures, and the Government Accountability Office
“Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government.” We also reviewed the Office of
Personnel Management “Guide to Processing Personnel Actions.” We conducted interviews with
Human Capital and Client Services (HCCS) 1 staff responsible for processing personnel actions.
We held discussions with support staff involved in the initiation and processing of personnel
actions from eight judgmentally selected Principal Offices (POs). In addition, we performed a
limited review of a sample of non-hiring personnel actions. The scope of our review included
actions completed during the period October 1, 2006 to March 31, 2008.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, the Office
of Inspector General (OIG) added higher priority audit assignments to its work plan that required
the reassignment of the resources that had been devoted to this audit. Since then, management
officials and staff in HCCS have changed significantly. As a result, continuing with this audit at
this time would require us to revisit a substantial amount of our fieldwork to determine whether
criteria had changed and whether potential weaknesses were already being addressed. In
addition, the time period associated with the actions that were being reviewed as part of this audit
has become dated. To ensure that our results would be meaningful and relevant, we would likely

    During the time of our audit, HCCS was named Human Resources Services.

    The Department of Education's mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering
                                          educational excellence and ensuring equal access.
Audit Closure Memorandum
ED-OIG/A19I0005                                                                          Page 2 of 2

need to revisit the original scope period of our audit. We subsequently concluded that the
circumstances surrounding this audit do not warrant the expenditure of additional OIG resources.

The work we performed was not extensive enough to answer the objectives described above and
would not necessarily disclose all material weaknesses in the appropriateness, accuracy, and
timeliness of personnel action processing. However, the work we performed did identify the
following issues that we wanted to bring to your attention.

We noted that, at the time of our review, the Department had not established specific timeliness
standards or goals for processing non-hiring personnel actions, nor was there a management
reporting and tracking process that would flag actions that were about to become overdue for
completion based on established standards. We also noted there was no formal guidance
provided to POs with regard to timeframes for initiating the various types of non-hiring personnel
actions. POs noted that HCCS expectations in this area were unclear.

If not already addressed, we suggest that HCCS consider establishing applicable timeliness
standards for processing non-hiring personnel actions. Without such standards, the Department
cannot completely foster a results-oriented workforce or hold individuals accountable for results.
We also suggest that guidance that clearly communicates HCCS expectations with regard to
timeframes associated with PO initiation of actions should be documented and distributed. The
lack of clear and consistent guidance to PO staff promotes confusion and frustration and hinders
the ability of such staff to comply with HCCS expectations.

The closure of this audit does not preclude further reviews of this or similar areas by the OIG in
the future, nor is our review to be construed as a substitute for any other reviews required by law.
In addition, closure of this audit should not be interpreted as agreement with or endorsement of
areas reviewed.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 522), reports and other products
issued by the Office of Inspector General are available to members of the press and general public
to the extent information contained therein is not subject to exemptions in the Act. This
memorandum will be made available on the OIG internet website.

We wish to express appreciation for the cooperation and assistance extended by your staff during
the review. If you have any questions about the review, please contact Michele Weaver-Dugan at
202-245-6941 or michele.weaver-dugan@ed.gov. No response to this memorandum is required.

cc:     Winona Varnon, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Management (OM)
        Donna Butler, Chief of Staff, OM
        Jeanie Banks, Audit Liaison Officer, OM