---.-.-_. l__l -_....-.._ I-.-..I--.--.-..I. ---IJtiild _-..-.._-. -.-__I. SI.atw (;c~rtc~ral .l----.__-- Accouritiug Ol’f’iw ktport t,o Lhc Chairman, Sukornmittee ’ GL%IO (m Fishwk,5 and W ildlif’e Conxrvation and the Environment, Cornrnittec on Mwchant Marine and Fisheries, House of’I-kpresentatives PERSONNEL PRACTICES Questionable Personnel Practices at the US. Fish and W ildlife Service / United States G&O General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 General Goverument Division B-236438 January 23,199O The Honorable Gerry E. Studds Chairman, Subcommittee on Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation and the Environment Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries House of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: This report responds to your March 28,1989, request to review the per- sonnel policies and actions of the former director of the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The former director, Frank H. Dunkle, held office from May 7, 1986, to March 15, 1989. You requested this information to determine which personnel policies and practices the Subcommittee should encourageor not encouragethe new FWSdirector to continue. In March 1989, Mr. Dunkle was reassigned from the post of FWS director to another position within WS. The reassignment followed a controversy surrounding Mr. Dunkle’s removal of the Portland, Oregon, regional director and reassignment of the Portland director’s two assistants. The removal prompted 20 Members of Congressto write the Secretary of the Interior in November 1988 questioning whether a pattern of personnel changesat FWS reflected improved management principles or wide-scale politicization that could damage FWS’ability to review objectively the impacts of proposed federal actions on fish and wildlife. You asked us to compare the number of special assistant, confidential assistant, and senior executive positions created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure with the numbers of such positions created during his recent predecessors’tenures. You asked us to determine the purposes and costs of the new positions and the contributions made by the incumbents to FWS’ mission. Lastly, you asked us to determine, if possible, whether the new positions contributed to or detracted from the efficiency, effective- ness, and professionalism of FWS. We identified 72 positions that were created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure. Results in Brief Of the 72, 31 were special/confidential assistant and senior executive u positions, more than twice the number of such positions created by his immediate predecessor. Page 1 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices We have the following concernsin connection with 22 of the 72 posi- tions: the propriety of assigning 2 senior executives to nonfederal orga- nizations; the need for 2 special assistant-to-the-director positions and 12 senior biologist positions; inaccurate descriptions of 3 positions that had been occupied for up to 10 months; and the supervisory relation- ships of 2 special assistant positions. In addition, we have concerns about the authority used to appoint Mr. Dunkle to his next FWSposition. Twenty-one of these 22 positions were still occupied at the time we did our work and FWS was paying about $1.6 million annually in salary and related benefits for these 21 positions. The remaining 60 positions resulted primarily from FWSreorganizations, The establishment of these positions, which we do not question, gener- ally did not change the basic responsibilities, reporting relationships, and locations of positions that existed before Mr. Dunkle’s term. Sixteen of the 27 FWS executives and managersthat we interviewed expressedconcerns about Mr. Dunkle’s managementpractices. Their concerns included such things as the motives for creating positions and the lack of sufficient consideration to the impact of personnel actions on people and FWSbudget. Six others gave both negative and positive com- ments. The remaining five believed that, overall, the changesMr. Dunkle made were good and improved FWS. Interior agreed with some of our recommendationsbut disagreed with those concerning its use of certain appointment authorities, Since the Department’s commentsindicate that it does not plan to discontinue the related practices that we found questionable or inappropriate, Congress may wish to intercede. FWSmission is to conserve, enhance,and protect fish and wildlife and Background their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. As part of this mission, FWSmust determine whether fish, wildlife, and plant speciesare endangeredand if so take action to return endangeredspe- cies to health, a function requiring FWSexecutives and managersto deal with politically sensitive and controversial natural resource issues,’FWS’ mission is carried out by, as of August lQ89,24 senior executives and about 7,700 other employeesworking from a national office, seven *Weissueda report on one of thoseissues.ENDANGEREDSPECIES:SpottedOwl Petition Evaluation Besetb Problems(GAO/RCED-89-79,Feb.21 1BSB).We found severalfactors that raisedques- Z thoroughnessand objectivity h consideringthe petition to designatethe spottedowl as an endangeredspecies. Page 2 GAO/GGD-904 Personnel Practices regional offices, a regional research office, and a variety of field instal- lations, such as fish hatcheries and wildlife refuges. (Seeapp. I for FWS’ organization chart.) FWS is headed by a director who is under the supervision of the Assis- tant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. The direc- tor has authority to establish new positions and, for positions up to certain levels of responsibility or grade, to approve appointments2 The director must obtain the assistant secretary’s approval for making appointments to certain positions such as deputy director, assistant director, and regional director. Certain positions and appointments require approval beyond the direc- tor and assistant secretary. For example, the federal senior executive service (SES) began operating in July 1979 and its members act as the government’s general managers.Interior’s Executive ResourcesBoard must approve SESpositions and appointments. A Qualifications Review Board convened by the Office of PersonnelManagement(OPM) must approve the managerial qualifications of persons before they are first appointed to career SESpositions. OPM must also approve certain other positions, such as those excepted from the competitive service. To answer the Subcommittee’squestions on positions created during Mr. Approach Dunkle’s tenure, we (1) obtained reports from Interior and OPM to iden- tify newly created positions; (2) analyzed position descriptions and sup- porting justifications to determine purposes of the positions; and (3) obtained salary costs from requests for, and notifications of, personnel action and relocation costs from travel records. Much of the information we gathered on Mr. Dunkle’s personnel prac- tices was obtained through interviews with FWS officials in Washington and three FWSregions- Boston, Denver, and Portland. The 27 officials interviewed were among the top officials at the four locations and had supervisory responsibility for the positions created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure or for related positions. We also interviewed Mr. Dunkle. Appen- dix VI contains more information on our objectives, scope,and methodology. 2Approvalof a position itself comesfrom FWS’personneloffice, which puts the proposedposition through a classificationreview processto determinethe proper grade/pay for the duties described. Page 3 GAO/GGD-99-43 Personnel Practices B-236438 Of the 72 positions (listed in app. II) created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, Nhnber of Special and 13 were special and confidential assistants to the director. In contrast, Cnfidential one of Mr. Dunkle’s predecessors(Mr. Robert Jantzen) created 3 such Absistants positions and the other (Mr. Lynn A. Greenwalt), for approximately the last 6 years of his tenure, created none. Data were unavailable for the approximately first 2-l/2 years (October 1973 through February 1976) of Mr. Greenwalt’s tenure. We estimate that the salary, fringe benefits, and relocation costs related to the 13 positions totaled about $1.1 million during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure. Appendix III compares the special and confidential assistant positions, as well as SES positions, created under Mr. Dunkle and his two predeces- sors for the periods that data were available. Most of the 72 positions created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure resulted Mbst Positions Created from FWSreorganizations. The establishment of these positions generally far Reorganization did not change the basic responsibilities, reporting relationships, and Pqrposes locations of positions that were in existence before Mr. Dunkle’s term. For example, 14 of the positions resulted from a reorganization of FWS' national office, announcedin May 1986 and supported by an earlier FWS study. The reorganization was generally viewed with favor by the FWS officials we interviewed. Appendix IV briefly describes FWS’ purposes for creating the 43 positions that we do not question.3 We have various concerns about 22 positions. Our concerns are summa- Uncertain Need for rized below and are discussedin more detail in appendix V. and Propriety of Some Personnel Actions Questionable Assignments Two FWS senior executives were assignedtemporarily to nonfederal to: Nonfederal organizations during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, and we question the propriety of the two assignments.Mr. Dunkle made one of the assignmentsafter Organizations requesting, but not obtaining, Interior’s required approval for a detail Y 3Althoughwe identified 72 positionsfor review, we have no opinion on 7 of the positions.We did not review them in detail becausethey were vacatedbeforeJune 1989. Page 4 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices and without the controls and protections set forth in the Intergovern- mental PersonnelAct of 1970 (IPA), its implementing regulations, and OPM guidance. In addition, the appropriation act for Interior during the period of this assignmentspecifically prohibited Interior from using funds to detail employeesunless the detail was in accordancewith OPM regulations. Therefore, FWSappropriations should not have been used to pay the executive’s salary and benefits (estimated to have totaled $96,200) during the approximately l-year assignmentwith the Ameri- can Fisheries Society in Bethesda,MD. The other assignmentis questionable because,contrary to OPM guidance, (1) several top-level officials said that the assignmentmight have been made in anticipation of retirement and (2) justification for paying 100 percent of the executive’s salary, fringe benefits, and relocation costs was not provided in the assignmentagreement.The executive’s 2-year assignmentwith the Alabama Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association in Mobile, AL, is to run through August 1990. We estimate that, through August 1989, the salary and fringe benefit costs had totaled $101,800. FWSpaid $13,000 to relocate the executive. Questionable SES In March 1989, Mr. Dunkle was reassignedfrom the position of FWS Appointment director to the position of Director of the Fort Collins ResearchCenter in Colorado. Mr. Dunkle’s reassignmentwas made under SESlimited emer- gency appointment authority, which may be used to satisfy a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need of an agency to fill a position.”OPM approved the appointment. In our opinion, the justification supporting the appointment does not sufficiently identify the events creating a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need for this appointment. Therefore, we question whether Mr. Dunkle’s appointment meets the statutory requirements for such appointments. ResponsibleOPM officials told us that OPM had also approved these types of appointments in other situations to help accommodatedeparting political appointees during presidential transitions. Given OPM’S acknowledgementof the practice, we saw no need to determine the extent to which it has occurred. 4This act, as amended(codified at 6 U.S.C.3371-3376)authorizesfederal agenciesto assignemploy- eestemporarily to eligiblenonfederalorganizationsfor work of mutual concernand benefit. The act also authorizesfederal agenciesto arrangefor theseassignmentswith or without reimbursementand providesvarious protectionsfor federal employees. “See - 6 USC. 3132(a)(6)(1982). Page 5 GAO/GGD-96-43Personnel Practices - B285438 Need for Certain Special As of August 1989, two senior executives occupied special assistant A$sistant Positions positions (one for fisheries and the other for contaminants) at FWS which we believe are questionable and need to be reevaluated. We reviewed the Q$estioned assistants’position descriptions and related documentation, and we ( obtained the views of five top officials in FWS’national office on the need for the two positions. The five officials were the acting director, who had been Interior’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wild- I life and Parks since January 1986; the deputy director-line;6 and the three assistant directors having responsibility for directing Service activities. On the basis of our review of the documentation supporting the estab- lishment of the positions and commentsmade by the above officials, it is unclear whether these positions are needed.Accordingly, we believe they need to be reevaluated. It is also unclear how the duties and responsibilities of the special assistant for contaminants position relate to other FWS positions. If this position is continued, we believe its rela- tionship to other FWSpositions needs to be clarified. Undefined and Incorrectly Although three employeeshad been assignedto newly created positions Defined Regional Positions up to 10 months, their duties and responsibilities were still unsettled as of August 1989. As such, the official description for each position was inaccurate. We recognizethat position descriptions may not always be up to date, but we believe they should be as current as possible. Accu- rate descriptions are needed for, among other purposes, establishing an employee’sgrade and pay. For the three positions in question, signifi- cant discrepancieshad existed for long periods of time between the incumbents’position descriptions and the jobs they were doing and their reporting relationships. In addition to these three positions, in August 1988, Mr. Dunkle directed the regional offices to create new senior biologist positions to place cer- tain incumbents whose positions as zone supervisors were being abol- ished as a result of a regional reorganization. In light of this purpose for creating the senior biologist positions, together with FWSsupervisory officials’ varied views and usesof the position, we believe the 12 posi- tions that were created require examination as to whether they should continue and, if so, what the duties and responsibilities should be. “FWS also has a deputy director-staff position.However,the official in that position was assignedin January 1989,after the specialassistantpositionswere created. Page 0 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices B-236438 CerUainSchedule C During Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, OPM approved ScheduleC positions7of rvisory Relationships assistants to the FWSdirector based on close and confidential working relationships between key officials and the assistants. OPM guidance says that ScheduleC appointees may not report to or through officials in the competitive service and that a close and confidential relationship will not exist unless the appointees are subject to the immediate supervision of a key official. The guidance also states that OPM must approve, in advance, changesin the approved reporting relationships. Available documentation shows that two assistants were organization- ally assignedto the director’s immediate office and that he or his deputy signed their performance appraisals. However, according to the Assis- tant Director for External Affairs, who is responsible for the Office of Legislative Services, a GM-15 career employee in the federal competitive service provided the daily supervision for the two assistants for sub- stantial periods of time. He added, however, that the director assigned them projects and they reported to the director. Both special assistants confirmed that they had worked in the legislative services area. Given the nature of these daily supervisory relationships, we question whether FWScomplied with the OPM guidance mentioned above. Another ScheduleC position was authorized before Mr. Dunkle’s tenure and, according to an FWS official, was still occupied in August 1989. OPM authorized the position as confidential assistant to the FWS director in January 1986. However, the incumbent said his duties included working at the White House and, since January 1989, for an Interior assistant secretary. We believe that the assignment of duties and the supervisory relationship for the above assistant was contrary to OPM’S authorization of the position for the periods mentioned. At FWS’national office and Boston, Denver, and Portland regional Ch@ngesAffected offices, we interviewed 27 officials-the acting director (a political Mahy FWS Top-Level appointee), 14 senior executives (SESpositions), and 12 deputy, assis- Officials Negatively tant, and associateregional directors (GM-16 and GM-14 positions). We held these interviews with FWS’ top-level officials to obtain views on managementpractices followed during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure as FWS direc- tor, and whether those practices contributed to or detracted from FWS’ efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism. 7ScheduleC positionsare exceptedfrom the competitiveservice and can be designatedas such only with OPM’sapproval. Page 7 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices B-235438 Officials gave both positive and negative comments.They generally believed that changes,such as the reorganization of FWSnational office, were positive. However, many officials had a different view regarding Mr. Dunkle’s managementpractices. The commentsmade by 16 officials were negative, and 6 others had both negative and positive comments. The comments made by 5 officials about Mr. Dunkle’s practices were positive. In general, the negative commentsindicated an overall concern about the motives for creating positions and the lack of sufficient con- sideration to the impact of personnel actions on people and FWS’ budget. Senior executives and other officials we interviewed pointed to specific caseswhere they believed positions had been created for questionable purposes. One example cited was the situation in the Portland office where, within 1 week, Mr. Dunkle reassignedthe regional director and his two assistant regional directors to newly created positions, all of which were included in the 22 positions that were of concern to us. The regional director was eventually removed becausehe refused assign- ment to a newly created position. The regional director claimed his reas- signment and removal were in reprisal for certain of his actions in carrying out FWS’ mission. Mr. Dunkle denied this claim and said the regional director was reassignedto the new position, special assistant for contaminants, on the basis of his related experience.* Another example involved the Boston office where Mr. Dunkle reas- signed the regional director and his deputy regional director on the same date. The former director and deputy director were both reassigned from those positions to newly created positions. One of these new posi- tions, special assistant for fisheries, now occupied by the former regional director, was included in the 22 positions that were of concern to us. This position also concernedcertain top-level FWSofficials. We did not have a concern with the other newly created position, Associate Regional Director, ChesapeakeBay Program. There also was a concern that the Dunkle directorship may have harmed FWS’ effort to attract well-qualified people to the SFS. This concern appears to have resulted from FWS’ reassignmentsof senior executives during the Dunkle years. Fifteen of FWS’ 24 senior executives were reas- signed a total of 20 times during that period of 34 months. Of the 20,9 RTheformer regionaldirector filed an appealwith the Merit SystemsProtectionBoard regardinghis removalon January 31,1989. Beforethe Board’sscheduledhearing,Interior and the official reached a settlement.Amongother terms of the settlement,Interior agreedto reinstatethe official with back pay from January 13 to May 1,1989, and the former regionaldirector agreedto withdraw his appeal and resignon May 1, 1989. Page 8 GAO/GGD-90-43Personnel Practices B-236433 were reassignmentsto existing SE.3 positions, 5 were reassignmentsto new SESpositions, and 6 were reassignmentsto new positions created as a result of the national office reorganization. The head of an agency requires leeway in organizing work, creating Co#lusions positions, and appointing people to them. However, in doing so, the agency head is obligated to comply with pertinent requirements, and to I ensure that others under his or her supervision do so as well. This includes ensuring that created positions fit the needs of the organization and that the positions are properly defined. The duties and proper pay of a position should not be decided many months after the position is filled. The duties and supervisory relationships for ScheduleC appoin- tees should conform to OPM’S authorization of the positions. In addition, an agency head must not exceedthe authority of his or her position in assigning personnel. It appears that Mr. Dunkle did not always comply with these requirements. Moreover, according to perceptions of most top-level FWS officials, Mr. Dunkle did not create an environment in which employeesbelieved that certain positions were created and filled to improve the organization. OPM’S authority to approve limited emergency appointments and Sched- ule C positions serves as a control on their use by federal agencies.How- ever, it is uncertain whether OPM properly exercised this control when it approved Mr. Dunkle’s limited emergencyappointment. Further, we do not believe agencies’use of this appointment authority is appropriate to accommodatedeparting political appointees, as OPM officials indicate has been done. In addition, on the basis of testimonial evidence we gath- ered, Interior and FWScircumvented OPM’S control over ScheduleC posi- tions by assigning ScheduleC appointees duties and establishing supervisory relationships other than those approved by OPM for the positions. We recommendthat (1) the Secretary of the Interior ensure that the Rekommendations to assignmentof the senior executive to the Coastal Conversation Associa- the Secretary of the tion in Alabama, including arrangements for sharing salary and benefit Interior costs, and similar assignmentsmade in the future conform with the IPA and related OPM regulations and guidance. In addition, we recommend ” that (2) the Secretary, under IPA guidance, determine what portion of the salary and benefit costs should have been assumedby the American Fisheries Society for the assignmentof the senior executive to the Soci- ety and recoup such costs from the Society. We also recommendthat the Page 9 GAO/GGD-9943Personnel Practices B-235438 Secretary instruct the Director of FWSto (3) review existing special assistant positions to determine whether they are necessaryto accom- plish FWS’ mission and, if so, are defined properly; (4) ensure that the actual duties and responsibilities of the positions and approved descrip- tions agree; (6) determine whether the regional senior biologist positions make the best use of FWS’ resources;and (6) ensure that ScheduleC appointees’supervisory relationships are the same as those approved by OPM. Finally, when changesin the supervisory relationships of Schedule C appointees must be made, we recommendthat (7) as required in OPM guidance, the Secretary instruct the Director to request approval from OPM. I We recommendthat the Director, OPM, ensure that limited emergency Rebommendation to appointment authority is used to meet agencies’bona fide, unantici- the Director, OPM pated, urgent needs for filling positions. Further, OPM should ensure that such appointments are not used to accommodatedeparting political appointees, We obtained official comments from Interior and OPM on a draft of this Agency Comments and report. Interior did not share our concerns and the concernsexpressed Our Evaluation by various top-level FWS officials regarding Mr. Dunkle’s management practices. After reviewing the positions in question, Interior did not believe any further action was neededon our four recommendations concerning (1) the assignmentof a senior executive to the Coastal Con- servation Association; (2) the assignmentof a senior executive to the American Fisheries Society; (3) the development of accurate position descriptions for three officials; and (4) the supervisory relationships of ScheduleC employees.Interior did agree to take action on the other three recommendations. We believe that additional action is needed on all seven recommenda- tions to address those positions that we questioned and to ensure that relevant personnel laws, regulations, and guidance are followed in the future. We disagree with Interior’s position that 16 USC. 661 and 742f(a)(4) provided authority for the assignmentof a senior executive to a nonfederal organization for approximately 1 year. These provisions provide Interior with general authority to carry out its mission, includ- ing assisting and cooperating with other organizations, but we do not believe they provide authority for detailing employeesto work at pri- vate organizations for extended periods of time. Rather, we believe that the IPA provides the authority for such assignments. Page 10 GAO/GGD-0043 Personnel Practicee In addition, Interior emphasizedthat OPM's guidance permitted flexibil- ity regarding reimbursement for assignmentsunder the IPA. While OPM's guidance recognizesthat there will be instances where reimbursement may be based on factors other than the relative benefits each organiza- tion will receive from the assignment,it further provides that such instances should be rare and must be explained in the assignmentagree- ment. Finally, Interior said that the two ScheduleC assistants received performance ratings from the director or his deputy. Interior also said that ScheduleC employeesare organizationally assignedto the direc- tor’s immediate office and receive their general assignmentsfrom the director. However, on the basis of testimonial evidence we gathered, it appears that the two ScheduleC appointees were supervised daily by a GM-16 career employeein the competitive service for significant periods of time. OPM said that the limited emergencyappointment of Mr. Dunkle to the Fort Collins position appeared valid becausea bona fide emergencymay be based upon whether an organization can function effectively for a period of time without a particular position. However, Interior did not identify the events creating an emergency.We are also troubled by com- ments made by OPM that the limited emergencyappointment authority had been used to accommodatedeparting political appointees during the presidential transition. We believe that this use of the authority is ques- tionable unless the facts indicate that an emergencyexists. Thus, in light of OPM'S comments, we revised our recommendationto ensure that use of the authority is limited to bona fide, unanticipated, urgent needsof agencies.We discussedour revised recommendationwith OPM officials; they said they had no objection to it. We also received written commentsfrom the former director of FWS.In general, Mr. Dunkle said that his managementpractices and specific per- sonnel actions were under the supervision of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and that he had legal authority for the actions taken, He emphasizedthe need for and the positive impact of his actions in 1986 to reorganize the FWSnational office. Although we generally agree with Mr. Dunkle that most of his personnel actions were legal and within his discretion as an agency head, we do not agree that the assignmentof a senior executive to a nonfederal organization received required Interior approval. In addition, the assign- ment was made without the controls and protections set forth in the IPA, Page 11 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices B236438 its implementing regulations, and OPM guidance. Also, we question cer- tain assignmentsof ScheduleC political appointees who were super- vised daily by a career employee. We do agree with Mr. Dunkle that the 1986 FWSnational office reorganization was a significant change that was generally well received in FWS. The full text of Interior’s, OPM’S and Mr. Dunkle’s comments on all of our findings and recommendations,along with our evaluation, are included in appendixes VII, VIII, and IX. , I Interior cited 16 USC. 661 and 742f(a)(4) as authority for assigning a M tters for senior executive to a nonfederal organization for approximately 1 year. C,”ngressional These statutory provisions give Interior general authority to protect fish Cdnsideration and wildlife, including assisting and cooperating with other organiza- tions, but we do not believe these provisions should be used, in place of the IPA, to detail employees to nonfederal organizations for extended periods of time. Rather, we believe that the assignment should have been made under the IPA and that FWSshould have followed the IPA and implementing OPM regulations and guidance for the assignment. Interior’s comments indicate that it does not plan to change its practices regarding the use of the above authorities for assignmentsto nonfederal organizations and regarding the ScheduleC and limited emergency appointment authorities which we also found questionable or inappro- priate. Thus, Congressmay wish to intercede. First, Congressmay wish to amend 16 USC. 661 and 742f(a) (4) to clarify that use of these authorities to assign employeesto outside organizations is inappropri- ate. Second,the appropriate congressionalcommittees may wish to pur- sue Interior’s use of these authorities and its use of ScheduleC and limited emergency appointment authorities during appropriations and oversight hearings. As arranged with the Subcommittee, unless you publicly announcethe contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time we will send copies to the Secretary of the Interior; the Director, FWS;the Director, OPM; the State President of the Alabama Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Associa- tion; the Executive Director of the American Fisheries Society; Mr. Frank H. Dunkle, the former director, FWS;and to other parties upon request. We will also send copies to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, the SenateCommittee on Energy Page 12 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel practices B-235428 and Natural Resources,and the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. Pleasecontact me at 276-6074 if you or your staff have any questions , concerning the report. The major contributors to the report are listed in appendix X. Sincerely yours, Bernard L. Ungar Director, Federal Human Resource ManagementIssues Page 13 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices contents i Letter 1 Appendix I 16 U. US.Fish and Wildlife Setvice Organization Chart - August 1989 Appendix II Li ‘t of Seventy-Two F 4 S Positions Selected for Review Appendix III 18 Comparison of Special/Confidential Assistant Positions of Three Former FWS Directors Appendix IV FWS’Purposes for Creating Forty-Three Positions Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty- Two Newly Created FWS Positions Page 14 GAO/GGlMO-43 Personnel Practices Contents Apdendix VI 29 Obj$ctives, Scope,and Methodology 32 Appendix VIII ConkmentsFrom the Office of Personnel Management Ap ‘endix IX CO I%nents From the Foriner Director of the US Fish and W ildlife Service Appendix X Major Contributors to This Report Table V. 1: Twenty-Two FWS Positions of Concern 20 Abbreviations FWS U. S. Fish and W ildlife Service Y IPA Intergovernmental PersonnelAct of 1970 OPM Office of PersonnelManagement SIB Senior Executive Service Page 15 GAO/GGD-ftO-43 Pemonnel Practicem Appendix I U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Organization Chart - August 1989 Special Assistant to the Assistant Director ‘Director (Alaskan Issues) External Affairs t Deputy Director (Line) I ;11 Deputy Director (Staff) Assistant Director Fish 81 Wildlife Enhancement I . / Reeves 1 hty Assistant Director 1 Regional Director (Portland) Regional Director (Albuquerque) Regional Director (Twin Cities) Regional Director (Atlanta) Regional Director (Boston) Regional Director (Denver) Regional Director (Anchorage) Deputy Regional Director I Director for Technical & Administrative Support Note: The chart includes all 24 SES positions and the director’s position, Page 16 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appebdix II Liz/kof Seventy-Two FWS Positions Selected for Review Date Title Number Grade Location approved Special Assistant to the Director 1 ES-05 Gainesville, FL May 1988 Special Assistant to the Director 1 ES-05 Washington, DC Apr. 1987 Special Assistant to the Director 1 ES-04 Washington, DC July 1988 Soecial Assistant to the Director 1 ES-03 Lakewood, CO Mar. 1987 Confidential Assistant 1 GS-09 Washington, DC Dec. 1986 Confidential Assistant 1 GS-11 Washington, DC June 1986 Confidential Assistant 1 GS-11 Washinaton, DC June 1986 Confidential Assistant to the Director 1 GM-14 Washington, DC Oct. 1986 Special Assistant to the Director 1 GM-14 Washington, DC Oct. 1986 Special Assistant to the Director 1 GS-14 Washington, DC May 1987 Special Assistant to the Director 1 GS-15 Washington, DC June 1986 Special Assistant to the Director 1 GM- 15 Denver, CO Jan. 1988 Special Assistant to the Director 1 GM-15 Washington, DC Sept.1986 Executive Director, North American 1 ES-05 Minneapolis, MN Nov. 1987 Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) Deputy Executive Director, NAWMP 1 GM-15 Minneapolis, MN Jan. 1988 Deputy Director (Western Operations), 1 GM-15 Portland, OR Oct. 1988 NAWMP Director. Fort Collins Research Center 1 ES-04 Fort Collins, CO Mar. 1989 Research Director, Patuxent Wildlife 1 ES-05 Laurel, MD June 1987 Research Center Deputy Assistant Director, Fish and 1 ES-04 Washington, DC July 1986 Wildlife Enhancement Other Directorate Positions 14 Various Washington, DC Various Associate Regional Director, 1 GM-15 Boston, MA July 1988 _--. Chesapeake ’ Bav~ Proaram - Program Officer 1 GM-15 Lakewood, CO Apr. 1987 Associate ---___ Regional Director 1 GM-14 Portland, OR Nov. 1988 Associate Manaaer 24 GM-14 Various Various Senior Biologist 12 GM-l 3 Various Total Positions 72a aWe did not attempt to identify every position created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure from May 7, 1986, to March 15, 1989. In keeping with the scope of our review, agreed to by the Subcommittee, we identified all special and confidential assistant positions and all newly created SES positions. We also identified certain other newly created positions at the GM 13-15 levels from our work at three regional offices. For two (associate manager and senior biologist) of the regional positions identified at these levels, FWS had created similar positions in four other regions, and these positions are included among the 72. Although we selected 72 positions, we did not review in detail 7 positions that were vacated before June 1989. These were special or confidential assistant to the director positions. Page 17 GAO/GGD9043 Personnel Practices Apkndix III , C@mparisonof Special/Confidential Assistant Pbitions of Three Former FWS Directors Position Special/ confidential assistants Schedule Other Director Term of office’ A and Cb SES SES Total Frank H. Dunkle May 1986-Mar 1989 9 4 18 31= Robert Jantzen Nov 1981 -SeDt 1985 3 0 8 11 Lynn A. Greenwalt Ott 1973-Jan 1981 Od 0 6e 6 aFor the periods of time not shown above, FWS was headed by acting directors. bAt FWS, special and confidential assistant to the director positions are usually filled by Schedule C appointees and SES members. In one instance this position was filled by a Schedule A appointee. Schedule A exceptions from the competitive service are made when examinations are not practicable and Schedule C exceptions are made because of the position’s policy-determining or confidential character. ‘Although 72 positions were established under Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, 41 positions are not shown above. These 41 are regional positions at grades 13 through 15. They are excluded from the comparison because comparable data were not available for the previous directors. dLimited to the period March 1976 to January 1981. Data were not available for October 1973 through February 1976. eLimited to the period October 1978 to January 1981. GS-16 through GS-18 executive positions con- verted to the SES in July 1979 are not included. Y Page 18 GAO/GGMO-43 Personnel Practices Appebdix IV F’$W Purposes for Creating Forty- Three Positions Number Purpose 14 Senior executive positions were established in Washington, DC, as part of a national office reorganization in 1986. The reorganization involved a shift to a new management structure to permit FWS to more effectively address natural resource conservation and management issues in the field. 24 Associate manager positions were created in seven FWS re ions as part of a regional reorganization announced in 1988. The purpose o7 the reorganization was to eliminate a level of management and to place greater emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of assistant regional directors. 2 Positions of executive director and deputy executive director for the North American Waterfowl Management Plana were created in Minneapolis, MN, to * help implement an agreement on waterfowl conservation and management. 1 The position of research director, Patuxent Wildl!fe Research Center, in Lapel, MD, was established by upgrading an existing posrtron to the SES 1 The position of associate regional director was established in Boston, MA, to provide liaison with other federal and state agencies and with private organizations regarding FWS’ involvement in the Chesapeake Bay restoration proaram. 1 A special assistant to the director position was created primarily to handle the FWS national office reorganization mentioned above, and its subsequent realignment of roles and responsibilities in the headquarters office and in some regional offices. 43b aThe North American Waterfowl Management Plan, signed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Minis- ter of Environment for Canada in May 1986, provides the framework for cooperative international efforts in waterfowl conservation and management. bin contrast to the 43 above positions, we have concerns in connection with 22 of the 72 positions. For 7 positions, we have no opinion because we did not review them in detail. These were Schedule A and C special/confidential assistant positions vacated before June 1969. Page 19 GAO/GGDM-43 Personnel Pmcticee Apdendix V E G&O Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions We identified 72 positions that were created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure. Of these 72 positions, we have concerns in connection with 22, identified in table V. 1 below and discussedin more detail later in this appendix. Tabl V.l: Twenty-Two FWS Positions of Concern cost a Annual salary/ Grad8 benefits Relocation Problem noted ES-4 b 0 Assignment of a senior executive from this position to a nonfederal organization without Interior approval was improper. Speqial Assistant to the ES-5 $101,800 $13,000c Assignment of a senior executive from this position to Direator for Alaskan Issues a nonfederal organization is not consistent with OPM guidance on IPA assignments, Senior Executive Appplntment: _ ____ I_. _. . .- ..-.---_- Director, Fort Collins ES-4 99,000 10,000 Appointment of Mr. Dunkfe to this position using Research Center limited emergency appointment authority is auestionable. Questionable - .-. :-- _...-..-.- Positions: Special Assistant to the ---. ES-5 101,800 34,000 Three of five key FWS officials questioned the content Direqtor for .._.__. Frsheries -.-..~--...-I..--.- of, or need for, this position. Specral Assistant to the ES-4 99,000 0 Position had been occupied since July 1988. FWS Director for Contaminants officials have conflicting opinions on the need for this position and its relationship to existing Interior and FWS positions. ~--- ..__---- Program Cificer -~ GM-15 96,300 0 Incumbent was assigned to this position in March 1989. The scope of duties for the position was undefined as of August 1989. .~ ..__--.~-._- Deputy Director (Western GM-15 87,200 0 Incumbent was assigned to position in October 1988. Operations), North Both the supervisor and incumbent believed the American Waterfowl approved position description required considerable Management Plan revision. Associate Regional GM-14 85,600 0 Incumbent was assigned to position in January 1989. Director In February 1989, an FWS evaluation team reported that the position description needed to be rewritten to reflect new duties because it did not contain sufficient work assignments related to day -to-day activities. Position description had not been amended as of August 1989. .--_ c _...- _.-_-__-- Sensor Biologist (12 GM-13 795,400 0 Positions created to accommodate employees whose positions) GS-1 5 ositions were abolished during a reorganization. I: hree of 7 supervisors questioned the prescribed duties for 6 of the 12 positions. (continued) Page 20 GAO/ND-9043 Personnel Practices GAO Concerns bgarding Twenty-Two Newly Created mm Positiona cost I3 Annual salary/ Posit/on ---__-- ..- -.___ ---+- Grade benefits Relocation Problem noted Questionable ~:E~~~Yp.- -.--.--.,k..-.----L -- Spec al Assistsnt to the GM-14 132,600 0 Supervisory relationships for Schedule C appointees Direc(or I (2 posmons) were not clear and therefore may not have been consistent with OPM’s position authorizations for significant periods of time. Tati,J--~----.--~. $1.598.700 $57.000 aExcept for one position no longer authorized, we calculated these costs using 1989 salary rates and cost factors for retirement, insurance, Medicare, and other benefits as shown in Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-76. FWS supplied data showing relocation costs (real estate expenses, travel, and transportation) for incumbents who moved to new permanent duty stations to accept newly created positions. bThis position is no longer authorized and therefore we did not include the estimated salary and benefit costs in the total. On the basis of salary and benefit rates in effect at the beginning of the l-year assign- ment, we estimate these costs totaled about $95,200. All other positions were still authorized and filled as of August 1939. cln addition to the relocation cost for the special assistant’s IPA assignment in Mobile, Alabama, $13,000, FWS paid for his relocation from Alaska to Washington, D. C. According to FWS, the cost of this relocation totaled $79,000. Questionable Assj ,gnments The IPA authorizes federal agenciesto assign employeestemporarily to to Nonfederal eligible nonfederal organizations for work of mutual concern and bene- fit. The act also allows federal agenciesto arrange for these assignments Organizations with or without reimbursement and provides various protections for federal employees regarding pay, tenure, and position while on IPA assignments,l Guidance in OPM’S Federal Personnel Manual says that cost sharing between the federal agency and the nonfederal organization should be consistent with the relative benefits that each organization expects to accrue and that the borrowing organization is usually the principal beneficiary of the assignment.If factors other than, or in addi- tion to, relative benefits are used, the reasons must be clearly explained in the assignment agreement.2 Deputy assistant director for fish and wildlife enhancement As required by Interior policy, Mr. Dunkle said that FWSrequested Interior’s approval of a Z-year IPA assignment for a senior executive, the deputy assistant director for fish and wildlife enhancement,to the American Fisheries Society. FWS officials gave us a proposed IPA assignment agree- ment that provided for the assignment as a detail and that the employee ‘Public Law 91-648,Jan. 6, 1971,84 Stat. 1909,as amended(codified at 6 USC. 3371-3376). 2FederalPersonnelManual,Ch. 334, l-Le.(l) and (3) (Inst. 310, Dec.1, 1983). Page 21 GAO/GGD-904 Personnel Practices Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions had signed on August 19,1987. The agreement also provided for the signatures of Mr. Dunkle and the Society’s executive director. However, Mr. Dunkle said that Interior did not approve the request for the IPA assignment; documentation was not available to explain why. As shown in letters dated October 26, 1987, from Mr. Dunkle to the dep- uty assistant director and the Society’s executive director, Mr. Dunkle expanded the responsibilities of the executive’s existing position to include functions that had been included in the proposed IPA assignment. From about November 1987 through October 1988, the executive worked full time at the Society’s offices in Bethesda, MD, and under the Society’s supervision. The senior executive’s supervisors at FWSsaid they had not assignedher any work while she was at the Society, and her official position description did not mention any work at the Society. FWSpaid all of her salary and benefit costs. Mr. Dunkle, in essence,arranged an IPA-typedetail without the controls and protections provided by the act, its implementing regulations, and OPM guidance. Mr. Dunkle lacked the authority to unilaterally make this assignment and, without Interior’s authorization of the assignment under the IPA, FWSappropriations should not have been used to pay the executive’s salary and benefits while she worked at the Society. The costs for the salary and fringe benefits for the assignment totaled about $95,200. There were no relocation costs involved with this assignment. Special assistant for Alaskan issues The position was approved and fil- led after the incumbent who had headed FWS’ regional office in Alaska requested a transfer from that office. He was in the position of special assistant to the FWSdirector from June 1987 to August 1988. According to FWSofficials, the special assistant worked on Alaskan issues in Inte- rior’s office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. In August 1988, after the Assistant Secretary in that office received Interior’s approval in April 1988, the special assistant began a 2-year IPA assignment with the Alabama Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association in Mobile, AL. OPM approved the Association as an eligible IPA participant in January 1988. The special assistant, who was about 6 years away from optional retire- ment when the assignment was made, said that he arranged the IPA assignment. Several top-level FWSofficials, including the acting director, said the assignment was made in anticipation of the special assistant’s Page 22 GAO/GGD99-43 Personnel Practices Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positioxw retirement. OPM guidance says that the IPA program is not to be used to assign employeesto places of anticipated retirement3 In addition, Interior acknowledged that the Association would share in the benefits, but FWSis paying all salary and benefit costs. The assign- ment agreement,however, did not indicate that any factors other than relative benefits were used to determine how costs would be shared. In light of the relationship of this assignment to top-level FWS officials’ comments about the senior executive’s retirement and OPM’S guidance on sharing costs, we believe this assignment does not comply with IPA requirements and question whether FWSappropriations should be used to pay 100 percent of the executive’s salary and benefits. The costs for the salaries and fringe benefits, and the relocation costs for the assign- ment totaled about $114,800 as of August 1989. Questionable SES In March 1989, Mr. Dunkle was reassignedfrom the position of FWS Appointment director to the position of Director of the Fort Collins ResearchCenter in Colorado. The Fort Collins director position had been upgraded to SW level in July 1987. It was filled by a senior executive until May 1988, when Mr. Dunkle assignedthe executive to a national office position. From that date until March 1989, Interior and FWShad not attempted to fill the Fort Collins position on a permanent basis, and during this period, it had been filled by nine acting directors. Mr. Dunkle’s reassignment was made under SESlimited emergency appointment authority. Such appointments may be made to meet a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need; cannot exceed 18 months; and must be approved in advance by OPM (6 U.S.C.3394 & 3132 (a)(6) ). OPM approved Mr. Dunkle’s limited emergency appointment. It did so on the basis of Interior’s statement that becauseof rapidly changing events in FWS,it could not anticipate the urgency and the immediate need to fill the position. Other than this, FWS, Interior, and OPM were unable to explain the basis for the limited emergency appointment in terms of a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need. ResponsibleOPM officials told us that OPM had also approved these types of appointments during presi- dential transitions to accommodatedeparting political appointees. In our opinion, the justification supporting the appointment does not sufficiently identify the events creating a bona fide, unanticipated, “Federal PersonnelManual,Ch. 334, l-4.f. (Inst. 310. Dec. 1, 1983). Page 23 GAO/GGD9043 Personnel Practices Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions urgent need for this appointment. Therefore, we question whether Mr. Dunkle’s appointment meets the statutory requirements for such appointments. Nee for Certain Special As of August 1989, two senior executives occupied special assistant Assistant Positions positions at FWS that we believe are questionable and need to be reevalu- B ated. We reviewed the assistants’position descriptions and related docu- Questioned mentation and obtained the views of five top officials in FWS’ national I office on the need for the two positions. The five officials were the act- ing director, who had been Interior’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks since January 1986; the deputy director- line;4and the three assistant directors having responsibility for directing Service activities. Special assistant for fisheries According to the position description, the assistant’s major duties are to represent the director at meetings held by fisheries committees and organizations; prepare fisheries management plans and regulations; and advise the FWS director and Interior officials on national fisheries policies, programs, and procedures. The incumbent was eligible for retirement when reassignedto the position, shortly after it was approved. He is stationed at an FVSfacility in Gainesville, FL, a location he selected. FWS officials said the special assistant serves on various fisheries com- mittees and confers with FWSnational officials. They furnished all docu- mentation they had available, which indicated that the special assistant had attended five meetings held by fisheries organizations in about 10 months. One of the officials said the special assistant had not developed plans and regulations mentioned in the position description. Although stating that the position was needed,JYS’acting director said the posi- tion neededgoals and accountability; the deputy director-line said the position should be reevaluated; and the assistant director for fisheries believed the duties could be handled through existing positions. The two other FWSofficials did not know if the position was needed. On the basis of our review of the documentation supporting the estab- lishment of the position and the officials’ comments, it is unclear whether this position is needed.Accordingly, we believe the position needsto be reevaluated. The costs for the salaries and fringe benefits, 4FWSalso has a deputy director-staff position. However,the official in that position was assignedin January 1989,after the specialassistantpositionswere created. Page 24 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices Appedx V GAO Concerna Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions and the relocation costs for the assignment totaled about $135,800 as of August 1989. Special assistant for contaminants In January 1989, Mr. Dunkle removed the Portland regional director who had refused to accept assignment to this position because,among other reasons given by the regional director, it duplicated 46 existing Interior and FWS positions that deal with the contaminant problem. A second executive, detailed to the position that same month, said the position lacked sufficient respon- sibilities to justify it. The incumbent also furnished documentation pre- pared by various FWSofficials, including assistant directors and regional directors, who said the position as described would overlap and conflict with existing responsibilities of other FWS positions. In interviews with us, the acting director and deputy director-line said FWSneededthe position to deal with a contaminant problem. One assis- tant director believed the duties and responsibilities of this position could be handled through other existing FWSpositions. Although two assistant directors were unsure of the need, one said that the job could be handled within the existing organization while the other said he was uncertain if the job required someonefull time. On the basis of our review of the documentation supporting the estab- lishment of the position and becauseof the varying opinions among FWS’ top officials regarding this position, it is unclear (1) whether this posi- tion is needed and (2) if it is needed,how the duties and responsibilities of the position relate to other FWSpositions. Accordingly, we believe that the continuance of the position warrants evaluation and, if it is contin- ued, its relationship to other FWSpositions needs to be clarified. The costs for the salary and fringe benefits for the assignment totaled about $99,000. There were no relocation costs involved with this assignment. Unhefined and Incorrectly After Mr. Dunkle removed the Portland regional director from that posi- Defined Regional Positions tion, he removed two of his GM-15 assistants as well, Since October 1988, one of the two had been assignedto a new position in the Portland region and reported to an FWS official in Minneapolis, MN. However, the employee, together with his supervisor in Minneapolis, believed that the approved position description required considerable revision. For exam- ple, both the employee and supervisor believed the position description should be revised to require that the incumbent report to the regional director in Portland, where the incumbent is located, rather than to a Page 26 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appsndlx V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions FWSofficial in Minneapolis. This was based on the supervisor’s under- standing that the position description should reflect about 76 percent of the duties on activities in the region and about 26 percent on activities related to the Minneapolis office. In January 1989, the other assistant took a new position of associate regional director in the Portland region at a grade level lower than his previous grade. According to the position description, his duties were primarily to advise and assist the regional director and do various spe- cial projects as assigned.An FWS evaluation team reviewed the position and recommendedin February 1989 that the position description be rewritten to reflect new duties becauseit did not contain sufficient work assignmentsrelated to day-to-day activities. FWShad not developed new descriptions for this position, or the position discussedabove, as of August 1989. In the third case, an employee returned from a limited term SW special assistant-to-the-director position to a GM-16 regional position of pro- gram officer in March 1989. The program officer position had been established in April 1987. It had been occupied by the current incum- bent from June 1987 to October 1987, when he received a limited term SESappointment as special assistant-to-the-director. According to FWS officials, during the 17 months from October 1987 to March 1989, the program officer position had remained vacant and FWS had not attempted to fill it. FWSdid not have an accurate description of the posi- tion as of August 1989. The approved description was inaccurate becauseit showed, for example, that the incumbent would supervise FWS’ finance center and engineering center in Denver, whereas an FWS national official responsible for the two centers said the employee was not responsible for supervising the two centers. According to the employee, since March 1989, his actual duties have included overseeing an FWSconstruction contracting office and certain other offices in Den- ver, developing a training program, and working on special projects such as the planned relocation of the FWS Boston regional office. FWSofficials were reviewing a new position description for the incumbent in August 1989. Although we recognize that position descriptions may not always be up to date, we believe they should be as current as possible. Accurate descriptions are neededfor, among other purposes, establishing an employee’s grade and pay. In the above cases,the duties and responsi- bilities of the incumbents were not clearly defined even though the posi- tions had been occupied for up to 10 months. Also, we believe the Page 26 GAO/GGD-30-43 Personnel Practices Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions discrepancies between the incumbents’position descriptions and the jobs they were doing, including their reporting relationships, were significant. In addition to the above three positions, in August 1988, Mr. Dunkle directed the regional offices to create new grade 13 senior biologist posi- tions. According to Mr. Dunkle, the purpose of creating the positions was to place certain incumbents whose positions as zone supervisors were being abolished as a result of a regional reorganization. The former director’s August 1988 directive and other FWSdocumentation establish- ing the new positions did not identify an organizational need for the positions or the incumbents’duties and responsibilities. In response,the regional offices created 12 senior biologist positions and filled them with former zone supervisors. Four of the regional officials we interviewed who had supervisory responsibility for the senior biolo- gists believed that 6 of the 12 positions were needed.However, 3 super- visors for the other 6 positions said that the positions were either not neededor did not represent the best use of FWS resources.Three of the ’ 12 incumbents were handling duties, full and part time, in other areas as of August 1989. In light of the purpose for which the 12 positions were created, together with the varied views and uses of the position, we believe the positions require examination as to whether they should continue and, if so, what the duties and responsibilities should be. If incumbents are doing other jobs, they could perhaps be more properly assignedto those positions. Cedain Schedule C During Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, OPM approved ScheduleC positions of spe- Suplervisory Relations‘hips cial and confidential assistants to the FWS director. The establishment of ScheduleC positions, which are excepted from federal competitive ser- QWstionable vice, must be specifically authorized by OPM. In deciding whether to pro- vide authorizations, OPM’S approval process includes consideration to whether proposed positions will involve policy determinations or close and confidential working relationships with a key official. A key official can be a presidential appointee, another ScheduleC appointee, or an SES appointee occupying a noncareer or general position. OPM guidance says that Schedule C appointees may not report to or through officials in the competitive service and that a close and confidential relationship will not exist unless the appointees are subject to the immediate supervision of a key official. The guidance also states that OPM must approve, in advance, changesin the approved reporting relationships. Page 27 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appendix V GAO Concerns Regarding Twenty-Two Newly Created FWS Positions Two ScheduleC positions created during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure were still authorized and filled as of August 1989. OPM had authorized these two positions on the basis that the assistants would have a close and confi- dential working relationship with the director, deputy director, and other high ranking departmental officials. Organizationally, the posi- tions were assignedto the director’s immediate office and the director or his deputy signed the assistants’performance ratings. Both assistants said they worked for the director and their duties involved the legisla- tive services area. But, according to the Assistant Director for External Affairs, responsible for the Office of Legislative Services, one assistant worked under the daily supervision of a GM-15 career employee in the competitive service for 8 months and the other for 35 months, the entire length of her appointment. He added, however, that the director assignedthem projects and they reported to the director. Given the nature of these daily supervisory relationships, we question whether IVS complied with OPM'S criteria that in order for a close and confiden- tial relationship to exist, the appointees must be subject to the immedi- ate supervision of the key official. In addition to special/confidential assistant positions approved during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure, a ScheduleC position was authorized before his directorship and, according to a FWS official, was still occupied in August 1989. Although OPM authorized the position as confidential assistant to the FWSdirector in January 1986, the incumbent said his duties included working at the White House and, since January 1989, for an Interior assistant secretary. We believe that the assignment of duties and the supervisory relationship for the above assistant was contrary to OPM'S specific authorization of the position for the periods mentioned. Page 28 GAO/GGD90-43 Personnel Practices Appendix VI Objectives, Scope,and Methodology Our objectives were to (1) determine the number of SE%, special assistant, and confidential assistant positions created during the directorship of the former director and his recent predecessors;(2) determine the pur- posesand costs of the positions created under the former director, including high-level positions at certain FWSregional offices; (3) ascer- tain whether these new positions and the people in them contributed to FWS’ efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism; and (4) determine whether the process for establishing selectedpositions during the for- mer director’s tenure followed relevant, OPM regulations and guidance, and Interior instructions. To identify the number of SES positions established during the former director’s tenure, we used an OPM list of SESpositions created at FM%from the start of the SES(July 1979) through April 17, 1989. The list included the date the position was created and the position title. We also used the list for a secondpurpose; the titles allowed us to determine if any of the positions were for the job of special assistant-to-the-director. To further identify confidential and special assistant positions, we reviewed Interior’s monthly rosters of ScheduleC appointments. We reviewed available rosters covering the period from June 1986 through April 1989, The reports show the dates the appointments were made and the Interior unit making the appointment. We then verified the com- pleteness and accuracy of our identifications with computerized records from OPM. We identified the number of SES, special assistant, and confidential assis- tant positions established during the tenure of the former director’s two immediate predecessors.One directed FWSfrom about October 1973 to January 1981 and the other was the director from about November 1981 to September 1985. (Periods of time between directors were filled by acting directors.) We used the OPM list of SEspositions to identify those created during each predecessor’stenure and to determine if any were for the job of special assistant-to-the-director. We also used Interior’s ScheduleC reports and similar reports from OPM that, together, provided an inventory of such appointments back to 1976. For each appointment that we identified, we reviewed OPM'S file on the related position to make certain that the appointment was for special or confidential assistant-to-the-director. Page 29 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices Appendix VI Objectives, Scope, and Methodology The Subcommittee asked us to identify and analyze a significant sample of the high-level positions established at three FWSregions: Boston, Den- ver, and Portland. We identified two positions (senior biologist and asso- ciate manager) at the grade 13 and 14 levels to examine. These positions were part of an rws-wide reorganization, thus making our analysis impact all regions. The reorganization was made at the direction of the former director. We also identified three positions (deputy director, western operations, North American waterfowl managementplan; asso- ciate regional director; and program officer) at the grade 14 and 15 levels. The Subcommittee agreed with this sample. To ascertain the purposes of the positions created under the former director and the contributions of people who filled them, we reviewed selected position descriptions and supporting justifications and perform- ance appraisals of persons in the positions. We interviewed 27 rws offi- cials in Washington and the three FWSregions to obtain views on the need for positions and the practice followed in creating and filling them. These officials also provided views on whether the new positions con- tributed to FWS’ efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism. The offi- cials included the acting director, FWSSenior Executives in Washington, the regional directors (including the former regional director in Port- land), and their various assistants in the three regions. We also inter- viewed the former director. To determine position cost, we reviewed requests for and notifications of personnel actions that showed grades and salaries of persons filling the new positions. We did this for all special and confidential assistants and for 22 other newly created positions that concernedus. We esti- mated the cost of fringe benefits associatedwith these positions using cost factors in effect for retirement, insurance, Medicare, and other employee benefits shown in Office of Managementand Budget Circular No, A-76 for the relevant periods of time. We also obtained cost data from travel records where positions involved permanent changesof duty stations. We determined whether the process FWSfollowed in estab- lishing the positions was in accordancewith law, regulation, and instructions by determining whether required approvals were obtained for personnel actions and whether the actions were consistent with requirements. At OPM, we obtained reports and records to identify or verify positions created during the subject tenures, determined whether FWS obtained OPM'S approvals for ScheduleC positions, and received comments from OPM on certain FWS personnel practices. Page 30 GAO/GGJHO-43 Personnel Practices APw* VI Objwtlver, Scope, and Methodology Our work was done between February 1989 and August 1989 in Wash- ington, DC, and at FWSoffices in Boston, Denver, and Portland. We fol- lowed generally acceptedgovernment auditing standards. The Department of the Interior, OPM, and M r. Dunkle provided written com- ments on a draft of this report, These commentsare presented and eval- uated in appendixes VII, VIII, and IX. Page 31 GAO/GGDSO-43 Personnel Practicea AppendixVII &nments From the Department of the Interior Note; GAO comments supp)ementing those in the repott text appear at the end 4f this appendix. I I United States Department of the Interior OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240 November 2, 1989 Mr. James Duffus, III Director, Natural Resources Management Issues U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Dear Mr. Duffus: Transmitted herein are the comments of the Department of the Interior regarding draft report B-235430, Personnel Practices, Personnel Management Issues at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Our comments on the specific recommendations of the draft report are included as enclosure (l), and a copy of the current U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service organizational chart is provided as enclosure (2). Nowonp. 1. On page 2 of the draft report in the first paragraph of the section entitled Results in Brief, it is misleading to draw so positive a conclusion regarding comparison with prior Directors. As indicated in Appendix III, no data was available for the initial period of Director Greenwalt's tenure. It is ordinarily during the early part of such service that initial excepted service appointments are made by political appointees. Further, there is no data indicated to determine if Director Greenwalt See comment 1. created positions under the Executive Assignment System prior to July 1979. To say that Director Dunkle's number of positions created is more than double that of his two most immediate predecessors is not substantiated by factual information. We strongly recommend that the last clause of sentence 2 be deleted. In the first full paragraph on page 4 of the draft report, the Now Dn p, 3. role of the Qualifications Review Board (QRB) is discussed. For purposes of clarification, the QRB must approve the managerial See comment 2. qualifications of candidates only before they are first appointed to career Senior Executive Service (SES) positions or after completion of agency Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Programs. Now on p, 4 On page 5 of the draft report in the first paragraph of the section entitled Number of Special and Confidential Assistants, the record indicates that there are no complete data available to indicate that Director Greenwalt created any special and/or confidential assistants. Although Appendix III is noted to See comment 3. inform the reader of the lack of data from October 1973 to March 1976, this fact is ignored in this paragraph as well as in the Nowonp. 1. paragraph on page 2 as described above. Page 32 GAO/GGD-90-43Personnel Practices Appendix W Commenta From the Department of the Interior 2 On page 6 of the draft report in paragraph 2 of the section Now oh pp, 4 and 21. entitled Questionable Assignments to Nonfederal Organizations, while the citations noted are accurate, they do not express the flexibility contained in FPM Chapter 334, subchapter l-5, when read in its entirety. Chapter 334.1-5e(l), is provided as guidance and includes exceptions and other circumstances under which different arrangements may be made. Cost sharing on a relative benefits basis is the most common method utilized, but See cdmment 4. alternatives exist depending upon factors relevant to the non- Federal organization. Flexibility is included so that Federal agencies may make use of it where they deem warranted to accommodate the specific characteristics of individual assignments. Now O(I pp. 5 and 22 On page 7 of the draft report in paragraph 4, regarding the uncertainty expressed about the use of Fish and Wildlife Service appropriations to pay for the salary and benefits of the Deputy Assistant Director - Fish and Wildlife Enhancement while performing assigned, related functions with the American Fisheries Society, we assert that no impropriety exits from an appropriation use standpoint. Under the provisions of 16 USC 661 and 16 USC 742f(a)(4), the Fish and Wildlife Service is See comment 5. authorized to provide assistance and cooperate with private organizations in such endeavors. We conclude, then, that since the action was legal, the use of Fish and Wildlife Service appropriations was permitted. On page 8 of the draft report in paragraph 2 of the section Now on pp. 522, and 23 entitled Special Assistant for Alaska Issues, the employee's official personnel records indicate that he is not eligible for optional retirement until October 3, 1994, more than 2 years after his assignment would expire were it extended to the maximum time limit of 4 years. As he is covered under the provisions of the Civil Service Retirement System, he must have a combination of age 55 with 30 years of service or age 60 with See comment 6. 20 years of service in order to retire optionally. Accordingly, the statement in sentence 1 that he '*was near retirement eligibility age when the assignment was made" is misleading. Additionally, the sentence regarding Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance and the accompanying footnote, (61, does not apply to this case. Our above comments regarding See cbmment 7. determination of Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment costs are also applicable here. Further, as there is no relationship to the employee's optional retirement eligibility, See c$mment 8. no basis remains for the retention of the last sentence of paragraph 2. On page 9 of the draft report in paragraph 2 of the section Now on pp, 5 and 23 entitled Questionable SES Appointment, the request submitted by the Fish and Wildlife Service was for a limited-term appointment. During the close-out session conducted by the General Accounting See comment 9. Office staff, the evaluators were informed by the Department's Director of Personnel that Interior changed the appointment type Page 33 GAO/GGD-go-43 Personnel Practices Appendix VII Comments From the Department of the Interior 3 on advice of OPM. Your interpretation of the requirements and use of the limited-emergency appointment authority is excessively rigid and inflexible. Your characterization leads the reader to believe that agencies and OPM have no discretion in its use. Although OPM is best able to respond to this point, your narrow interpretation is not consistent with OPM's efforts to assist agencies in responding to sensitive staffing needs. Now n pp. 6,25, and 26. On page 12 of the draft report in paragraph 2 of the section entitled Undefined and Incorrectly Defined Regional Positions, the example used to illustrate the need for a revised position description is not valid. Employees are assigned supervisors based on organizational alignment not on geographical location. See cbmment 10. The position in question was established as part of the organization located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and properly reported to the head of that organization. The determination to organizationally locate the position in the Minneapolis organization was made by Fish and Wildlife Service management as is its prerogative. The employee depicted in this paragraph optionally retired on September 2, 1989. In the section of the draft beginning with the last paragraph on Now on pp, 6 and 27 page 13 and continuing through two paragraphs on page 14, the suggestion that the establishment of 12 senior biologist positions to accommodate former zone supervisors was unwarranted reflects a lack of understanding of the need to retain employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The alternative action would have been to effect a reduction-in-force action involving 12 Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. The Fish and Wildlife Service See comment 11. expects Regional Directors to reevaluate their needs on a continuing basis and assign available people as warranted. Now on pp. 7,27, and 28. On pages 14-16 in the section entitled Certain Schedule C Working Relationships Questionable, the OPM guidance as stated in paragraph 1 is incomplete. Schedule C employees may report to See comment 12. Presidential Appointees, other Schedule C employees, or Senior Executive Service members in positions designated as general (as opposed to designation as career reserved). In the cases of two Schedule C employees mentioned in paragraph 2, records show that See oomment 13. both received performance ratings from the Director or the Deputy Director acting in his stead. These officials took performance appraisal action in the capacity of immediate supervisor. Schedule C employees are organizationally assigned to the Director's immediate office, and only the Director determines the general assignments they carry out on his behalf throughout the Fish and Wildlife Service organization. The Schedule C employee mentioned in paragraph 3 was detailed to the White House on a See comment 14 reimbursable basis as required for periods exceeding 180 days during a fiscal year. Upon his return to the Fish and Wildlife Service, he was detailed to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. He has since resigned and left the Federal service. Page 34 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appendix WI Comments Prom the Department of the Intmlor 4 On page 16 of the draft report in the section entitled Changes Now on, pp. 7,8, and 9. Affected Staff Negatively, the report recounts personal views of 27 employees. The reader is encouraged to believe that, with the exception of the Fish and Wildlife Service reorganization in 1986, personnel decisions were taken for questionable purposes. See co(nment 15. The employees interviewed are entitled to hold their personal opinions regarding these actions. In the last paragraph of this section, concern is expressed regarding the attraction and retention of "good" (which we interpret as well qualified) people in the SES. The 18 SES members cited were reassigned a total of 23 times as follows: 13 associated with the 1986 reorganization, 7 to positions higher in the organization, and 3 to fill new positions. The use of the term "many reassignments" is See colnment 16. misleading to the reader as the majority were directly related to the Service reorganization and involved little more than a change in title. The Fish and Wildlife Service believes its SES members are well qualified, and no mass exodus, as implied, has occurred or is foreseen. Nowonp. 18. On page 26, Appendix III, the above comments regarding page 2 of the draft report are applicable to the comparison chart and notes c, d, and e. Note b indicates that Schedule A appointments are used to fill "positions of special assistant to the director." Schedule A appointments are not routinely used, as stated, to fill such positions. In the one case where this authority was used, the employee was originally appointed under Schedule C See comment 17. authority, but was converted to Schedule A when it was determined that she was eligible as a severely handicapped individual (Schedule A, Reg. 213.3102(u)). This was the only instance where Schedule A authority was used to fill a position of this sort. We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments, and trust that they will be of assistance in preparing the final report. Sincerely, Constance B. Harriman Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks See comment 18. Enclosures Page 36 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices AppendLrM Comments F’rom the Department of the Interior Comments on the Recommendations of the GAO Draft Report Personnel Management Issues at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service B-235438 Recommen d a tions to the Secretary of the Interior dation : That the Secretary review the Assignment of the senior executive to the Coastal Conservation Association in Alabama to ensure that salary and benefit costs are shared appropriately and the assignment conforms with the Intergovernmental Personnel Act and related OPM regulations. If improper, we recommend that the Secretary determine whether remedial steps, such as amending the agreement with the Association to more accurately reflect cost sharing, are appropriate. Now on pp. 4 and 21. Resvons e: In light of the comments we have provided on the page See comment 19. 6 text of the draft report, we believe this action was properly taken. A subsequent review has confirmed regulatory compliance. Recommendation: That the Secretary determine whether the assignment to the American Fisheries Society and the use of FWS appropriated funds to pay any or all of the executive's salary and benefit costs during the assignment were proper. If improper, we recommend that the Secretary determine whether remedial steps such as recovering funds from the Society, or the former director, are appropriate. Response: pur comments on the page 7 text of the draft report Now on pp. 5 and 22. demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service action was within See comment 20. the scope of governing guidelines and that further review is unnecessary. Paraaraph 2 Recommendation: (1) That the Secretary instruct the Director of FWS to review existing special assistant positions to determine whether they are necessary to accomplish FWS' mission and, if so, are defined properly. See comment 21 Response: A review of existing special assistant positions is underway and final determinations are expected to be made within 60 days. Enclosure (1) Page 30 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appendix VII Cemmente Prom the Department of the lnterlor endation: (2) That the Secretary instruct the Director of FWS to ensure that the actual duties and responsibilities of the positions and approved descriptions agree. It is not unusual to experience broadening scope and !2zEF:* in newly established positions. Further, it is unrealistic to expect managers to anticipate every conceivable duty or project that could possibly be included in a new position established at the senior level, nor is there a requirement that every specific duty or project be included in a position description. Managers are not expected to redescribe positions See co/nment 22. unless actual duties that evolve are no longer generally described in the position description of record. It is the routine practice of Fish and Wildlife Service managers to maintain position descriptions in an up-to-date manner. Now 04 pp. 6 and 27. Fecomm62a$&ka : (3) That the Secretary instruct the Director of FWS to determine whether the regional senior biologist positions make the best use of FWS' resources. pesnonse: Our comments on the text of pages 13 and 14 of the draft report provide that Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Directors will continuously assess the needs of the Service within their Regions and allocate resources accordingly. We See comment 23. will, however, instruct the Regional Directors to pay special attention to the senior biologist positions. E+=uuendation : (4) That the Secretary instruct the Director of FWS to ensure that Schedule C appointees' actual duties and Now on pp, 7,27, and 26. supervisors are the same as those approved by OPM. See comment 24. -: Our comments on the text of pages 14-16 of the draft report demonstrate that Fish and Wildlife Service Schedule C positions are in compliance with guidelines. Recommendation: When changes in the duties and supervisory or reporting relationships of Schedule C appointees must be made, we recommend that the Secretary instruct the Director to request approval from OPM of the changes, as required in OPM guidance. See cbmment 25 -: Approvals will be requested from the Office of Personnel Management for changes in Schedule C positions when required by regulatory guidance. Enclosure (1) Page 37 GAO/GGB90-43 Personnel Practices ‘I Appendix VII Comments From the Department of the Interior The following are GAO'S supplemental comments on the Department of the Interior letter dated November 2, 1989. GAO Comments Greenwalt’s tenure. 2. Report has been revised on page 3 to clarify the Qualification Review Board’s approval authority. 3. Report has been revised on page 4 to clarify that data were not avail- able for a portion of Mr. Greenwalt’s tenure. 4. Information has been added to the report on page 21 to show that agencies,with specific justification, may share costs on other than a rel- ative benefits basis. 6. While the provisions of 16 USC. 661 and 742f(a)(4) provide general authority for the Secretary of the Interior to carry out the JTWSmission, including assisting and cooperating with other organizations, we do not believe these provisions cover assignmentsto nonfederal organizations for extended periods of time. Instead, Congressprovided specific authority for such assignmentsin the IPA. (For information on the legis- lative history of the IPA and its overall use by federal agencies,see Inter- governmental Personnel Act of 1970: Intergovernmental Purpose No Longer Emphasized [GAOIGGD-89-96, June 19891.)The former director tried to get the Executive ResourcesBoard to approve the assignment as a detail under the IPA. He then made, in essence,an IPA-typedetail without having obtained required Interior approval and without the controls and protections provided by the act, its implementing regulations, and OPM guidance. Interior policy requires the assignment of any FWSsenior exec- utive outside the Department for any length of time to be approved in advance by Interior’s Executive ResourcesBoard. 6. Report has been revised on page 22 to clarify when the employee is eligible to retire. 7. We revised the report to show that agenciesmust clearly explain in assignment agreementsif factors other than, or in addition to, relative benefits are used as a basis to share costs. The assignment agreement for the Special Assistant for Alaskan issues did not indicate that other factors were used. Rather, the agreement and supporting documents indicate that the benefits to FWS and the nonfederal organization were Page 38 GAO/GGDBO48 Personnel Practices Appendix VII Cbenuptienr%om the Department of the basis for the assignment. Yet, costs were not shared according to the benefits that each organization would derive from the assignment. 8. We have clarified the retirement eligibility date of the special assis- tant on page 22 of the report. The comments regarding the special assis- tant’s retirement plans were provided by FWSofficials, namely the acting director, a regional director, and a former regional director. 9. We do not believe that a limited term or a limited emergency appoint- ment authority was appropriate for assigning the former FWS director to the director position at the Fort Collins ResearchCenter. Limited term appointments may be made when the position is not a continuing one. This does not appear to be the case with the position of Director of the Fort Collins ResearchCenter. Limited emergency appointments may be made to meet a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need. FWS did not show what events created such a need. in fact, the Fort Collins position had been vacant for about 10 months during which time FWSdid not attempt to fill the position on a permanent basis. 10. Interior’s comments address the geographical problem which was identified by the employee and his supervisor. Other examples of what they thought neededto be revised in the position description included funding, major duties, and scope and effect of the position. Interior did not comment on discrepancies in the associateregional director and the program officer positions that had been occupied for several months. 11. We do not question the overall need for senior biologist positions in FWS.Rather, our basic concern is that some of the incumbents of certain positions were not being used in their assignedpositions, and some supervisors did not believe the positions were needed or represented the best use of FWSresources.FM%could possibly identify other positions which better fit the needs of the organization and assign the employees to these positions. If such positions cannot be identified, a reduction-in- force action is an alternative. 12. Report has been revised on pages 7,27, and 28 to clarify OPM'S guid- ance on reporting relationships of ScheduleC employees. 13. We agree that, on paper, the assistants were organizationally assignedto the director’s immediate office and that he or the deputy director signed their ratings. But, in reality, based on interviews with the special assistants and an FWSofficial, the special assistants, for sig- nificant periods of time, worked in another office and were supervised Page 39 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practices Appendix VII Chnmenta From the Department of the Interior on a daily basis by a GM-15 career employee in the competitive service. Given the nature of these daily supervisory relationships, we question whether FWS complied with OPM'S criteria for approving ScheduleC positions. 14. The confidential assistant did not work in the position of confiden- tial assistant to the director that OPM approved. As we note on pages 7 and 28 although he worked in other positions including one at the White House, OPM approved the position on the basis of its confidential rela- tionship with the former FWSdirector. We earlier reported on the detail- ing of ScheduleC employeesto the White House and commented on the inappropriate use of the ScheduleC hiring authority for this purpose. (For more information, see Personnel Practices: Detailing of Federal Employees to the White House [GAO/GGD-w-~O~BR, July 19871and Person- nel Practices: Federal Emulovees Detailed From DOD to the White House [GAO/GGD88-33, March 19881.)” 15. Our comments are based on interviews with 27 top-level officials at FWS, including the acting director, deputy director-line, most assistant directors, selected regional directors, and other selected regional offi- cials, at the SF&GM-15 and GM-14 level. As requested by the Subcom- mittee, we summarized both their positive and negative views on Mr. Dunkle’s managementpractices. Twenty-two of these officials had con- cerns about certain of those practices. 16. We have revised the report on pages 8 and 9 to reconcile our data with FWS’ data. Our analysis, however, still shows that the majority of the reassignmentswere made to existing positions and not to positions resulting from the reorganization, We have also revised the report on page 8 to show that the executives’concerns dealt more with attracting well-qualified people to the SES than with losing people. 17. Report has been revised on page 18 to clarify WS’ use of one Sched- ule A special assistant. 18. One enclosure, a FWSorganizational chart provided by Interior, was not used in this report. Rather, we included an FWSorganizational chart which included all SES positions as of August 1989. 19. Interior said the assignment of the FWSsenior executive to the Coastal Conservation Association in Alabama was proper becauseOPM'S guidance permits IPA assignment,coststo be shared by federal and nonfederal organizations for reasons other than the relative benefits to Page 40 GAO/GGD-3043 Personnel Practices . Appendix M Comments From the Department of the Interior each. While we agree with Interior’s interpretation of the guidance, the guidance also provides that, if a basis other than relative benefits is used, the assignmentagreement must show the other factors that were used. The agreement in question did not indicate that a basis other than relative benefits was used. Rather, correspondencesupporting the assignmentindicates that the Association would benefit from the assign- ment. Based on OPM guidance, if the Association is benefiting from the assignment,it should share someportion of the assignmentcost. 20. Interior said the former director acted with proper authority under 16 USC. 661 and 742f(a)(4) when assigning a senior executive to the American Fisheries Society. These statutory provisions provide Interior with general authority to protect fish and wildlife, including assisting and cooperating with other organizations in carrying out this mission. We do not believe these basic authorities should be used to assign employeesto nonfederal organizations for extended periods of time. Rather, Congressenacted the IPA to authorize such assignments,and we believe Fws should have followed the IPA and its implementing OPM regu- lations and guidance in assigningthe senior executive to the American Fisheries Society. Moreover, in the act making appropriations for fiscal year 1988, Congressspecifically precluded Interior from using any funds to detail any employee to an organization unless the detail was in accordancewith OPM regulations (Public Law No. 100-202, 101 Stat. 1329, 1329-235). This provision appeared for the first time in Interior’s fiscal year 1985 appropriation. The legislative history of the provision indicates that the House Committee on Appropriations also directed Interior to submit a report to the Committee each month, by agency, on employeesdetailed outside the agency. The reports include (1) the employee’sname, title, and grade; (2) the name of the organiza- tion to which assignedor detailed, (3) the purpose of the action; (4) the planned duration; and (5) whether the assignmentor detail is reimburs- able or nonreimbursable. (H.R. Rep. No. 886,98th Cong., 2d Sess.63 [ 19841.) We believe the former director acted without proper authority in mak- ing the above assignment and that the assignmentwas a detail. In addi- tion, had he executed an IPA assignmentagreementwith the American Fisheries Society as dictated by OPM regulation and guidance, the Society may have properly assumeda portion of the assignmentcost commensu- rate with the benefits it derived. In short, the government probably lost money, and Interior needs to make sure that, in the future, assignments of this type conform with the IPA and related OPM guidance. Page 41 GAO/GGD90-43 Personnel Practices Appendix VII Comments From the Department of the Interior 21. Interior agreedto review existing special assistant positions and determine within 60 days whether the positions are necessaryto accom- plish FWS’mission, and if so, whether they are properly defined. 22. Interior did not specifically address the three positions we identified as being inaccurately defined. Rather, Interior said that duties and responsibilities of newly created positions evolve over time and that managers are not expected to update the descriptions unless they gener- ally do not reflect the actual duties, We agree that position descriptions cannot always be current. However, the three positions in question had been occupied for periods ranging up to 10 months, and various FWSoffi- cials questioned the accuracy of the descriptions of record. The discrep- ancies described by these officials were significant, and unless FWS has complete and accurate descriptions, it cannot be sure that the duties and responsibilities are classified properly and that pay is appropriate. 23. Interior agreed with the thrust of our recommendation that FWS determine whether the regional biologist positions represent the best use of Fws resources. 24. Interior said ScheduleC special assistants’duties and reporting rela- tionships complied with guidelines. It said the assistants were organiza- tionally assignedto the former directors’immediate office, and the assistants carried out general assignmentson the former director’s behalf. Available documentation supports Interior’s comments regarding the general relationships between the former director and the special assistants. However, according to a FWSofficial, for significant periods of time, the assistants worked in the legislative services area and were actually supervised by a GM-15 official in the competitive service. Both assistants confirmed that they had worked in the legislative services area. Given the nature of these daily supervisory relationships, we ques- tion whether FWScomplied with OPM’S criteria for approving ScheduleC positions. 26. Interior agreed that it would request approval from OPM when changesoccur in ScheduleC positions as required in the future. Page 42 GAO/GGD-9042 Personnel practices AppenQix VIII , Cobments From the Office of Pekonnel Management -- UNITED STATES OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAQEMENT OlvK‘E “P T!,E 0,Hi%‘1‘0H Mr. Rernard L. Ungar Director, Federal Human Resource Management Issues U. S. General Accounting office Washington, D. C. 20401 Dear Mr. Ungar: This responds to a recommendation made in the GAO Draft Report on Personnel Management Issues in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Now on p. IO. Service (page 20) that OPM review the propriety of a limited emergency appointment authority granted for the appointment of Mr. Frank Dunkle. The justification submitted by the Department of the Interior with the request for a limited emergency appointment authority stated: "Secause of the rapidly changing events related to the Fish and Wildlife Service, we could not anticipate the urgency and Immediate need to fill this position at this time." A bona fide emergency may be based upon whether an organization can function effectively for a period of time without a particular position. In this case, filling the Director of the Fort Collins Research Center, the key Center position, through a limited emergency appointment during the transition period appeared valid. I have therefore determined that the authority granted for the SeeConiment 1 limited emergency appointment of Mr. Dunkle is appropriate and will continue until the 18 month expiration date or when Mr. Dunkle leaves the position, whichever occurs first. Constance Berry Newman Director Page 43 GAO/GGD9043 Personnel Practices Appendix VIII Cmnmenta From the Office of Personnel Manaeement 1. OPM said that the limited emergencyappointment of Mr. Dunkle to the G&O Comments Fort Collins position appeared valid, It said a bona fide emergency may be based upon whether an organization can function effectively for a period of time without a particular position. It is unclear, however, how or whether the vacancy at Fort Collins had resulted in a bona fide, I unanticipated, urgent need. To the contrary, information gathered dur- I ing our review shows that the position at Fort Collins had been filled by ( nine acting directors from May 1988 to March 1989, during which time I Interior and FWShad not tried to fill it on a permanent basis. We are also troubled by OPM'S comments made during our review that the limited emergency appointment authority had been used to accom- modate departing political appointees during the Presidential transition. We question whether this is a proper use of the authority, unless the facts indicate that an emergency exists. Thus, we expanded our recom- mendation to cover use of this authority beyond the circumstances sur- rounding Mr. Dunkle’s appointment. Page 44 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices Appengix IX Co#nmentsFrom the Former Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service United States Department of the Interior FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE NATIONAL ECOLOGY RESEARCH CEN’I ‘ER - 7 4512 McMurray Avenue Fort Collins. Colorado 80525-3400 Commerc;al 303-226-9398 FTS 323-5398 October 31, 1989 U.S. General Accountiq Office Attn: Mr. James Campbsll Assistant Director GeneralGevemnw!n t Division 441 G Street NW, F&em #3150 Washirqbn, D.C. 20548 Dear Mr. Campbell: Thank you for the opportunity to cxnmentonthe Draft Report xeguestedby chairman Studds to review personnel policies and actions by me during my tenure as Dire&or of the Fish and Wildlife Service. 'lhe allegationsrradeintheGA0 reportcxnmtbe separated frmthe envim-mntinwhich I foundmyself as I assmwzd leadership of the U.S. Fish aud WilciIife Service on May 7, 1986. Iherefore, Iwouldliketotakea few manwIts to clarify the situation that existed in the Service and that led to my initiation of significant managementand personnel changes in that agency. An important area of cmsiderationnotreviewedornotedbyyour investigators in this report is that portion of the law that states: Yhe Seepag&3. Director, who shall be subject to the supervision of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife.lt The Assistant Secretaries during Director Jantzents tenure a&the Assistant Secretariesdurirgmytenure requireddiscussion and appruval of all new positions, transfers, arxI prmotions. IIence,personnel actions that were remmended involving all GsGM/14's through senior Executive positions were discussed with and approved by the Assistant secretary. Most GS/Ql-15 actions reguired attention and appruval by Department personnel: in addition, all typee of actions for Senior Executive amsideration required Departmental and inmc&instancesO~appruval. Thus, it would be impossible for me to have taken whimsical, hasty, or hiproper actions. Page45 GAO/OGIMJO43PemonnelPractices Appendix IX CmnmenC From the Former Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Page 2 of 12 The Service had operated under a Prcgrm Managemnt System frun 1973-1986 Se& comment 1. wherebysevenseparatebodieswithintheSemicehadpmgmnmnageInent authoritycmxal1Semic.e functions, whichresulted inthelackofability Of~Servicetomeetthedeadlinesorneedsofpermitissuingand mmagme&oftheresaurces and thus there was much criticism of the Service. ~ofmyprimaryd3j~ivesasDirectorwastoabolishthissystem~ replace itwithaline-staff organization, which1 successfully accunplished. lhis action was widely reccgnizedasaneeAedinpxwvementt0 theserVice; itwaswell reoeivedbymostoftheaver7000Service~loyeea withintheagency,as~intheGAoreport.~~,changeiaMt withart rqemussicm in any organization. Individualsthatpreviouslyhad programmaMgerment~lostthat~,andthestatusquowasupsetwlthin theagency-aneededcharqethatwas~by scxneofthosethatlcst their power. mo~to~lementachangeofthismagnitude,Ineeded Bubstantidlshort-tennassistancefmmindiv~dualsthatsupportedand understoodtheline-staffmaMgementsystem,andnerdedtofMnewpositi~ for others to best make use of their managementcapabilities. meaboli~toftheProgram~gement~~resultedintheaboli~t of 57 UMecessary paper shuffling and staff positions in the Washbqtun See comment 1. Office, which saved $4.2 million of Se&ice resaurcemaMgementfunds. ?hese positions and soms of the individuals wee transfenxd to tb field. The Sexvice did not receiveReduction inFomeauthority, so inscm cases special amcessionswere~~deto ensurethatthe&angefrcmtheProgram Managment to line-staff organization oazarrd as smoothly as possible. Themajoroqanizational~e noted abovewas recognizedboth inside aM uat8idetheService as apositivear%Aneededaction. Hcmever, theG?Grepcrt See comment 1, fails to reccgnize the significance of this reorganization as it relates to thepersomelactionskeirx~questioned inthe report. For example, the Program Managers had their special staff assistants, but these positions are mtcxmsideredinthe~ardataand analysis providedintheGAOrepcrt. !Ihaf+Ompcrtcontains a surprising lack of factual information, anda confusirrgardconflictingpresfmta tion of the little infonnaticm available. Sinca the investigators could find little factual information, they resorted to speculation, and mbmquently treat this speculation as though it was factual. !mis is evidenced by the exce5sive use of #mses su& as (lit See comment 2. It "it wculd appear,*t %e beliewP and other premm@ms s&kemnts r&ide little infomtion but prwnotas a very biased attitude. In an efforttobeunbiafxd, thereport shculdclearlyseparate speculation frun fact, and deal only with factual information. opinions, both of the immstigators and those int-emiewed, have little relevance to the allegation thatpemmnelpmctices initiat&duringmyadininistrationwem illegal or inpmper. Page 46 GAO/GGD-8043 Personnel Practices Comments From the Former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Page 3 of 12 Fortherecoxd, alltheactions inveatigat&intheGA0reportwem, in See cohment 3. fact, legal and proper. Allwereapprwedbyeithera I+?Bamd specialist in the Service, or by officials at the Deparhnentlevel. Therefore, if inprcprietiesamprcperlydehmimd thentheG?~0repxtshaildfocuson amzctirrJthesepmcticesatthe&pkmant of Interior or Office of Persomel Managemsnt levels. The m negative bias of this report is evidenced further in the m&hod used to obtain the speculative information. Uniform and unbiased informaticn was not obtained. RAherthanrardaninterviews,selective intervia~swemheldwith only27 of the 7OOOSemiceen@oyees,mc&ofWhan mrenegativelyinpactedbythechangefruntheFmgramKinagemnttoline- 8taff;manyoftheindividudlsirrtervi~~dnatsupportthis~~ ~i~~ereforep~idedthenegative info~tiondesiredbythe See comment 4. Inaddltlon, thetypEs of questlomasled, thetone ofthe questioner,&theenvinmment inwhichtheintemiemmrehelddidbiasto the infoltnlaticn Ts-eszeived. Likewise, themethodinwhichthemspcmeswere mcordedandtheselectionof informationonwhichtobasethereport hcmasedthepcssibilityofmisrep resentationandmisin~retationof emplcyes pfxceptions. Ofgreatconcem tomearetbe llumxmsewnples~,eVeninthe- ofevidence ofinprcpriety,orwlaen~GPL)investigatons~tthatthe evidenceisunclear,thecADinvestigatorsinplyorconcludethatI acted iqroperly. IneveryinstancewhereFederal~ationsorcongressional authorities weal discussed, theGA0investigators&osetointerp~tho@ See comment 5. daa.mmU inthenr.mtrestrictivemanner, even thaqh alternative interprMxitionsareusedbyothers. Severalofthealleged inp3rcperactions tbkt-e not taken by me; for maple, their questioning of the swior Executive eintment to Ft. Collins was initiated at W Department level, and ths 12 Senior Biologist positions wlere totally under the purview of the respective rCegionalDirectors(PlppendixV). !I& entire discussion on page 9 of the Now on pp. 5 and 23 Drarr~~isunrela~tomyactions,yetitremainsaspartof~ loport. !ihxe sectionsthatdonotrelatetomyactions shculdbedeleted franthed-t. IheplrpaseofaGAOreportshculdbetoshedli~toncertainissues. Unfortunately, thesubjectreportdoesjusttheopposite. Insectionafhr section the investigators state that *@it is unc1ea.P (Page 8, last line: Page See comment 6. 11, 1st paragraph; pase 12, 1st line), We believel* (page 11 1st mph) or %e questioner (page 6, 2nd paragram; page 10, 3rd line), "in cur cpinion" (page 10 line l), %e believe are guesLionablef~ (page 10, 2nd paragraph), and soonthmqhmtthedocmen t. If these sections of the report cannotpmvide factual data orreachunbiased conclusions, theyshouldkedeleted. If the GPISimmtigatms cannotreacha coriclusionaftertheir reviewofthe legislation and da=uments, of what value is this information in the report except to unfairly bias the reader? Theseju&mentalopinionsbytheGA0 invfzstigators are inapprupriateandunwarranted. IneachcaseMxxethe corclusionisunclear, *GA0 investigatomassume guilt on my part and this is grossly unfair. Page 47 GAO/GGD9O43 Personnel Practices Appendix IX Cmnnenta From the Former Director of the U.8 Fish and Wildlife Service Page 4 of 12 Acational detailed n?spamBtotheallegationsara~inedinthe See Comment 7 atbdmmk. Iiahevw, I will EJlmnarizebyBtatilythatthep~ofthe report: failed to understand or cmdck the inpact that a major reo~zationhasonperscmaalacticme; failedtofindanybodyoffaobudldatatosubstantiatetheir allegations of inpmper pemonml action; - made exteneive uee of epeculatim and peseptions in lieu of factual infonnation;ard m therefomhavedmwn ircormctand inagiprcpriateconclusions inmoainstances. Aftermadingyourdmftreport,1canCmlyanc1udethattheGpD investigato~hwe foummthingof suktarm ard, failing to fM anythiq ofsuhtmoe,have insteadfocueedonspeculativejaur.naliem. I sincerely hcpethatyouwillremve the speczulaticmandcpinicm frunyourreport, and ackke6e only factualinfomationrelatedtotho6epemond. actionsthat factual informationconcludeewereilleqal andthatwere initiatdbyme. FUrtber, please restrict your ccmentstothosreactiaEs,fortichIwasthe responeible official. Fexhapewiththese revir3icm3, ycur repoztwillbemo~ accurate and more nbwhgfd. Attachments: 1 742b. USFWS(b) JBtabliehmmt of Director See comment 8 2 Official chart of USFWS 3 Wcammdd substitution for GWAppendixII 4 F%smmxM Substitution for GAOmix III 5 CmmntsonAppedxIV Y Page 48 GAO/GGD-90-43 Personnel Practices Appendix IX Comments From the Former Director of the U.8 Fish and Wildlife Service The following are GAO'S supplemental comments on the Former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s letter dated October 31, 1989. 1. We agree that the 1986 FWSnational office reorganization was a sig- GA6 Comments nificant change. According to the FWSofficials we interviewed, the change was generally well received in FWS, and we recognizethis at vari- ous places in the report. At the same time, many of the 22 positions of concern to us and many of the personnel practices of concern to various top-level FVVS officials were unrelated to the national office reorganiza- tion In fact, only 1 of the 22 positions resulted from that reorganization. 2. We based our report both on a review of testimonial evidence and pertinent supporting documentation. Where testimonial evidence was the best evidence available and therefore was used, it represents the views of FWS’ top-level officials, including the acting director, deputy and assistant directors, and various regional directors and their assist- ants. We did, nonetheless,appropriately qualify our observations and conclusions to make them consistent with the evidence available and to recognizethat the creation of new positions is a matter of discretion of an agency head, subject to relevant laws, regulations, and guidance. 3. Although we generally agree that most of Mr. Dunkle’s personnel actions were legal and within his discretion as an agency head, we do not agree that the assignment of a senior executive to a nonfederal organization received required Interior approval. In addition, the assign- ment was made without the controls and protections set forth in the IPA, its implementing regulations and OPM guidance. Also, we question cer- tain assignmentsof ScheduleC political appointees who were super- vised daily by a career employee. 4. Our comments are based on interviews with 27 top-level officials at FWS,including the acting director, deputy director-line, most assistant directors, selected regional directors, and other selected regional offi- cials at the SES,GM-15 and GM-14 level. As requested by the Subcommit- tee, we summarized both their positive and negative views on Mr. Dunkle’s managementpractices. Twenty-two of these officials had con- cerns about certain of those practices. 5. On the basis of evidence we gathered, we do question the propriety of certain actions taken during Mr. Dunkle’s tenure. We agree that Mr. Dunkle’s appointment to the Fort Collins position was initiated by Inte- rior and approved by OPM. We do not agree, however, that the regional Page 49 GAO/GGD-99-43 Personnel Practices . Commenta From the Former Director of the U.8 F’ish and WildlIfe Service directors initiated the action to establish senior biologist positions. Rather, Mr. Dunkle specifically directed, in August 1988, that the regional directors create senior biologist positions to accommodatethose individuals who would not be selected for associatemanager positions, as we state on pages 6 and 27 of the report. 6. Seeour comment 3 above. Also, the pages cited by Mr. Dunkle have changed and can now be found in appendix V. 7. On the basis of evidence we gathered and for the reasons given in our comments 1 through 6 above, we disagree with Mr. Dunkle’s summary comments. 8. We have not included the attachments to Mr. Dunkle’s letter in our report, Attachments 1 through 3 provided information already included, in different form, in the report. Attachment 4, a suggestedcomparison of special/confidential assistant positions created by Mr. Dunkle and his two immediate predecessors,excluded all new SESpositions resulting from the 1986 national office reorganization. While we agree that the total number of positions did not increase, we believe these positions should be included becausethey were newly created and becausewe have included similar positions for the previous two FWSdirectors. Attachment 6 provides Mr. Dunkle’s detailed comments on the 22 posi- tions of concern to us. Mr. Dunkle’s comments are similar to those made by Interior, which are evaluated in appendix VII. In addition, he pro- vided reasons for creating certain positions and the procedures he fol- lowed in doing so, which we recognizeat the appropriate places in our report. Page 50 GAO/GGD90-43 Personnel F%acticea Appetdix X M#or Contributors to This Report James T. Campbell, Assistant Director, Federal Human Resource Genbral Government ManagementIssues Divjsion, Washington, James J. Grace, Evaluator-in-Charge DLL Carrie Watkins, Evaluator Don D. Allison, PersonnelSpecialist Nellie Shamlin, Secretary Jill Sayre, Attorney-Adviser Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC, Aurelio P. Simon, RegionalAssignment Manager Seattle Regional Office (96&379) Page 5 1 GAO/GGD-9043 Personnel Practlce~ -I--~ ---- ---.- ---...-
Personnel Practices: Questionable Personnel Practices at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-01-23.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)