Observations on GAO's Experience in Implementing an Independent Personnel System

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-07-26.

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


                     United States General Accounting   OffIce    / $fy xsq
GAO             *


For Release         ' Observations   on GAO's Experience in
on Delivery           Implementing   an Independent Personnel    System
Expected at
2:00 p.m.
July 26, 1990

                     Statement of Joan M. McCabe,
                     Deputy Assistant Comptroller General
                     for Human Resources
                     Before the
                     Subcommittee on Civil Service of the
                     Committee on Post Office and Civil Service
                     United States House of Representatives
Mr. Chairman                and Members of the Subcommittee:

We are pleased                to be here today              to discuss         our personnel

The GAO Personnel                   Act of 1980 authorized               GAO to create            its
own personnel               system,      independent          of executive          agencies'
administrative               and adjudicatory           procedures             and regulations.
Under the separate                   system,     GAO's personnel           management systems
and operating               procedures         have remained          firmly      anchored        by
merit      principles.               We continue       to have mechanisms               in place             to
assure        that     recruitment,            selection,       and advancement            are based
on ability            and involve         fair     and open competition.

As a result            of this        independence,,          the potential          conflict           of
interest        between GAO's oversight                      of these     agencies       and the
authority            they    held     over our personnel              management system has
been minimized.                    We have also      gained      the flexibility             to
create        personnel            management systems           and practices           to meet our
changing        needs and support                GAO's unique          mission.

First      I would          like     to highlight       some of the areas where the
flexibility            to design        our own systems           and procedures            has been
most beneficial:                   and then I will          discuss      some aspects           of our
grievance            and appeals        procedures.
    Pecruitina                .
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    With our direct              hiring       authority,          we have created                  an active
    campus recruiting                 program that         is generating              large         numbers of
.   applications.               We can move quickly                to hire         outstanding
    candidates,          without        relying      on federal            registers          or other
    time-consuming              administrative         processes.              GAO's direct                hiring
    authority          allows      us to make immediate               offers          to highly
    qualified          candidates.            As a result,          we are making significant
    strides         to ensure         that    our work force          meets present                  and
    future         GAO needs.

    GAO has created              a performance-based                system called                  ItPay for
    Performance,lt          that       rewards     our staff         for     its      accomplishments
    and contributions.                  We believe         this     new system will                  permit     us
    to more appropriately                    reward our top performers                       for     their
    high      levels     of effectiveness             and productivity.

    Position         Classification
    We have replaced               GS grades with           broadbands.               This         system
    allows         us to use our staff             based on their              skills         and
    abilities,          rather      than limiting           assignment             flexibility             based
    on narrowly          defined        grade levels.


GAO has a three-step                     grievance      system in place                to internally
resolve         and/or      adjudicate         complaints         by employees who feel
that      they have been treated                 unfairly.

In the first             step,     the complaint             is dealt          with    by the lowest
level      manager or supervisor                 who has authority                    to grant     the
relief         requested.          If     the grievance          is not resolved             at this
point      to the grieving                employee's         satisfaction,             the matter        may
be taken         to a higher             management level.               If     the grievance          is
not resolved             at the second level,                 the employee may present
his      case to the Special                Assistant         to the Comptroller                 General,
who then designates                     a grievance         examiner          to do fact     finding
and make a report.                   The Special            Assistant          then renders        a
final      agency        decision.

Personnel         Appeals         Board
One of the important                     safeguards         in our system is the
Personnel         Appeals         Board (PAB).              Established          under the GAO
Personnel         Act of 1980, the PAB was created                              to provide        GAO
employees with             an independent             appeal      authority            and the same
protection          against        prohibited         and/or      discriminatory             actions
as their         counterparts             in the executive              branch.         The PAB
process         provides         GAO's staff         with     a unified,          and relatively
streamlined,             administrative          appeals         process,         compared to the
    *             branch's         different         processes          for     handling     adverse

actions,          discrimination             complaints,           prohibited        personnel
practices,              and unfair         labor     practices.
The PAB has substantially                          the same adjudicatory
responsibilities                   as the executive             branch's     Merit     Systems
Protection              Board      (MSPB), Federal           Labor Relations           Authority
(F-1        t and Equal Employment Opportunity                             Commission       (EEOC).

GAO's PAB consists                    of five       members, with          5-year     terms,      a
general          counsel,          and a support          staff.       The Comptroller
General          appoints          PAB members, after              consulting        with   GAO
employee          groups        and the Congress.

The PAB hears               appeals       from GAO employees               on:

1)       adverse         actions,       such as suspensions                or reductions          in
2)       prohibited            personnel        practices,
3)       labor         relations       issues,
4)       prohibited            discrimination,            and
5)       other         personnel       issues,       at the Comptroller              General's

The PAB conducts                   evidentiary          hearings     and makes final             agency
decisions.               PAB decisions             are appealable          to the court          of
appeals          for     the    federal      circuit.


We feel         that     the GAO PAB process,                     combined with              GAO's
internal         complaint         processes,             provides         our employees               with
substantial             and accessible             protection          against         prohibited
and/or         discriminatory             acts.

As I have suggested,                  we are very                pleased     overall          with         the
expanded capabilities                     the GAO Personnel                 Act of 1980 has
provided.              However,     there         are costs          associated         with         all
benefits,          and it     is important                to point         out that          there         can be
some drawbacks              to having            independent          personnel             legislation.
For example,             we can no longer                 rely     on the personnel                  policy
and other         support         previously             provided      by the Office                 of
Personnel         Management and other                     executive         branch
organizations.               The task            of developing             our own policies                   and
programs         has been a substantial,                         challenging,          and resource-
intensive         process,         with      a steep         "learning            curve."         In
addition,         creating         and maintaining                 the Personnel              Appeals
Board has been and additional                             expensive         for     GAO--we pay the
salaries         and support          costs        for     the board members and their

In summary, I believe                     that     the GAO Personnel                 Act is allowing
us to create             innovative         and effective              programs         that         would not
have been possible                 under OPM's system of procedures                                  and


    regulations.         Our ability          to design     and implement       personnel
    management systems and special                 programs        tailored    to our needs
    allows       us to better      attract,      develop,        motivate,    and retain
    the staff       we will      need to continue         to successfully          meet our
    unique       congressional      mandate.

    Mr. Chairman,        this     concludes      my statement         and I will     be happy
    to respond       to any questions           you may have.