Selected Personnel Practices of the Voice of America Warrant Management Attention

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-19.

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

                         United states General accounting Oface    /cc/   6 15
4   ‘-‘&A0               Testimony

                                                                   Ill IIR11111##11

      For Release   on    Selected Personnel Practices  of the            Voice     of
                          America Warrant Management Attention             ""‘
      Expected at
      9:00 a.m. EST
      Zune 19, 1990

                          Statement    of
                          Joseph E.    Kelley,   Director
                          Security    and International     Relations      Issues
                          National    Security   and International
                            Affairs    Division

                          Before the Subcommittee    on
                          International  Operations,
                          Committee on Foreign Affairs
                          House of Representatives

                                                                          GAO Form 160 (12/87)
Mr. Chairman,                Members of the                  Subcommittee:

I am pleased                to be here           today         to discuss            our        report      on personnel
practices             at    the     U.S.      Information             Agency's         voice            of AmeriCa           (VOA)
and Radio          Marti.             We undertook               the     review            at     the     request         of the
former         Subcommittee                Chairman          because      of    the         number of complaints
the         Subcommittee            had received               from    VOA employees.                      We provided
these         complainants            and other              employees         the     opportunity                  to express
their         concerns.             Of 2,020          employees          in the        united             States,         178 made
over         680 allegations                concerning           personnel            matters.              using         these
allegations                as a starting              point,         we reviewed                various        personnel
processes          and practices.

Our goal          was to determine                    if     there     were     systemic                personnel
problems          that       management              should      address.             Because            most       of the
employees          requested               confidentiality,               some of               the     allegations          were
generalizations                   of problems,               and clear         documentation                   was lacking           in
some cases,                we did     not      try         to pursue      individual                  cases.         Instead,        we
used the          information               provided           to examine            the        processes           concerning
each of         the        area     addressed              to determine         if     VOA had complied                     with
legal         requirements            and regulations.                   We did             not       attempt        to
determine             if    the     best      qualified          employees            were selected                  in
promotions,                awards,         and hiring           or the     performance                   evaluations              were


lvoice    of America:  Selected                             Personnel       Practices                 Warrant        Management
Attention    (GAO/NSIAD-89-160,                              July 12,       1989.)
In summary,               we found            that      in some cases,                   the    problems          were not        as
dire       as the         employees             had alleged.                   The lack         of supportive
documentation                  and/or         the     lapse      in time           since        some of          the    incidents
occurred           precluded             us from making                  factual          determinations                on the
validity           of        some of         the     specific           allegations.               However,            discussions
with       VOA officials                 and examination                     of   available          reports,           personnel
records,           and other             documents            corroborated                the     existence            of a number
of personnel                 problems.

Our review              showed inadequate                     controls            over     time      and attendance;
weaknesses              in the         administration                   of certain             contracts;          differences
in grade           structures                between        VOA divisions,                 which        caused
dissension;               underrepresentation                       of women and minorities,                            especially
in the          senior         or supervisory                 ranks;           limited         employment          rights        for
noncitizen              employees;              and inappropriate                    use of excepted                   service
hiring          authority.

During          our     review,          VOA initiated                  a number          of actions             to address
these       and other                personnel-related                   issues.           Moreover,             in commenting
on our          report,         the      agency        agreed           to     implement          our     recommendations.
Subsequent              to the         report        VOA has provided                     us with         oral     briefings           on
the      status         of     its     actions         to     implement            the     recommendations.                    We
have not           reviewed            the     actions.

NOW,      let     me briefly              highlight             our principal                  findings          and the
AgeQcy's          responses,              starting           with        the      issue        of time       and attendance.

.   ‘(1


          VOA had not              developed           or enforced                   sufficient           internal             control
          procedures              to ensure          that         VOA paid               employees        only       for       actual         hours
          worked.           In three           regional             language              broadcast         divisions,                we found
          instances          of      (1)     abuses          in tim e           and attendance                 reporting,               (2)
          failure         to abide           by overtim e                 and com pensatory                 tim e       rules,         and         (3)
          work       scheduling             shortcom ings.

          To improve              control       of     tim e        and attendance,                    VOA initiated                  sem inars
          on tim e        and attendance                rules,             established              a policy            of     zero
          tolerance          for      violation             of      tim e       and attendance                 rules,          reviewed             the
          justification               for     an S-hour              day without                 a m eal break,                and installed
          a com puter-assisted                    security                system          that    will      m ake it           easier         to
          m onitor        tim e     and attendance                    on the             weekends        and evening              shifts.


          Our review              of contracts              for      program              consultants,             known as purchase
          order       vendors,         during          the        first         6 m onths         of     fiscal         year      1988 in
          four      of VOA's regional                   language                broadcast           divisions              disclosed
          num erous        problems.              VOA used between                         300 and 400 vendors                        to m eet
          program m ing            requirem ents;                 however,               VOA had no central                    unit      to
          m onitor        their       use.        As a result,                      in    four    of     the      regional            language
          broadcast          divisions,              contracts              were not             awarded          on a com petitive
          basis,       contracts             were      awarded             to       form er      employees          and relatives                    of
          current         employees           without             proper            approval,          and three             of the
          divisions          did      not     follow         the          Federal          Acquisition             Regulation

concerning              proposed           purchase          orders         exceeding            $10,800                for     any one
vendor.              We reported                many of the           same weaknesses                      in        1982.

To better              manage its               use of purchase                 order      vendors,              VOA
established                  a central           oversight          unit        to ensure           compliance                  with
established                  policies           and procedures              for       use of purchase                         order
vendors.               In addition,               VOA publishes                 its     requirements                    for     foreign
language-related                      contracts          every        quarter           and is        considering                     a
proposal             to centralize                all    small        purchase           activity               within          one unit.


Complaints              were made about                  the wide           differences               in VOA'S grade
structure.               Generally,               opportunities                 for     advancement                   in the
Regional             Language           Broadcast         Divisions              were      limited              to grade              12 or
below;          at     the     time      of      our    review        84 percent              of the            staff          in these
divisions             were at grade                12 or below.                   These divisions                       are     staffed
primarily             with       noncitizen             and foreign-born                   employees                 who acquired
their       citizenship                 after      coming        to VOA.              In contrast,                   62 percent           of
the     staff          in the         News and English                 Broadcasts              Divisions                   were grade
13 or above.

VOA officials                  told      us that         because           of     the way VOA's work                           is
organized             and accomplished,                   broadcasting                  positions               in      the     News and
English          Broadcasts              Divisions           tend      to be one or two grades                                  higher
than #those             in     the      Regional         Language           Broadcast            Divisions.                     VOA
applied          the     Office          of Personnel            Management                (OPM) classification
criteria             and standards                to determine              the       grade      levels              for       these

.       \

             positions.                According         to VOA officials,                    the     higher      grades         were

             justified            based on the            complexity             and originality                of      the writing
             and editjng               of scripts.              However,         during         our    review        we learned           that
             considerable               original         writing       was       also      being       done in          the    larger
             Regional           Language         Broadcast          Divisions.

            VOA has initiated                    a review          of pay        systems         and developed                possible
            legislation                to give        greater       recognition               of performance              and
            contribution                in    the     pay-setting           process.


            The percentage                   of women and minorities                       in    the work         force        had
            increased             since       1984,     but     VOA had not             met its         affirmative              action
            goals        for      broadcasters,            radio      broadcast             technicians,              and radio
            electronic             technicians.               Women and minorities                      were generally                  in the
            lower        graded         positions.            Of the        2,164       U.S.        employees         here       and
            Americans             overseas,           48 percent           were women and minorities;                           however,
            only        18 percent            of women and minorities                       filled       positions             of grade
            13 or higher.                    Women filled           only        3 of    the      42 language             service         chief
            positions            and 80 of the             other      329 managerial                   and supervisory
            positions             (grade       13 and above).

            VOA advised                us that       to enhance            the    status         of women and minorities,
            it     is    now targeting               recruitment            to groups            and institutions                 that
            include            large      numbers       of women and minorities,                         examining             the
            application                and selection            process,          analyzing           the      career         paths
            within        VOA to          identify        those      experiences                and skills           which      appear       to


.           .I

    . 4,’

                     result           in advancem ent,                    working           with     USIA's        Office          of    Equal
                     E m ploym ent             Opportunity                to     identify          affirm ative             action        goals              and
                     strategies,                and emphasizing                      to senior             m anagers        that        EEO is           a
                     critical            part         of     their        job.


                     We also            found         that      noncitizen                 employees         have      lim ited         employm ent
                     rights.             Since          VOA's noncitizen                     employees           are       excepted           from           the
                     com petitive               civil         service,             civil         service      law affords                them fewer                 job
                     rights        and less                protection              from      adverse         or disciplinary                   actions
                     than       their          U.S.        citizen            (com petitive             service)           counterparts;
                     noncitizen                employees              cannot        directly            appeal       such      actions             as civil
                     service            employees             can.         Noncitizen              employees           expressed              concern              that
                     they       are      m ore vulnerable                      to abusive            personnel             practices           than           other

                     VOA is        authorized                 by law to employ                     foreign         nationals             in    the       United
                     States,          without              regard        to      civil       service         and classification                       laws,           in
                     positions            requiring              special            talent         when suitably               qualified              U.S.
                     citizens            are     not         available.                  VOA employs          over         300 noncitizens                     in
                     the      United       States             who are            recruited           from     overseas             as well          as from
                     the    U.S.        work       force             (typically,             perm anent          resident           aliens).                  VOA
                     sponsors            the     noncitizens                   recruited           overseas          for     entry        to       the        United
                     States        as nonim m igrant                     exchange            visitors         on J-1         exchange              visas.
                     These employees   in m ost cases lose their   authorization                                                              to    rem ain           in
                     the United  States if their   VOA employm ent ceases.

Although            the       J-l    visa       is     intended               to bring           people           into             the united
States          on a temporary                 basis,            VOA has routinely                         used         it         to hire
permanent            employees.                Over         50 percent                  of    the     noncitizen                    employees
received           a waiver            from      the        requirement                  to return              to their              homeland
for     2 years            and were           sponsored            by VOA to become permanent                                         resident

VOA has           initiated            a review             of    the         employment              policies                for
noncitizens                to develop            a better               regulatory               structure                   for     making
employment             decisions              and responding                      to     concerns              expressed              by
noncitizen             employees.               VOA believes                      the        approach           will          lead         to
greater           stability            in employment                    and clarify                 the        parameters                  of
noncitizen             employees'              appointments                    with          VOA.        In addition,                   VOA and
USIA are           working           with      the         Immigration                 and Naturalization                            Service       to
establish            a new visa               category            for        VOA noncitizen                     employees                  that
would          alleviate            problems          they        and their                  families           have          in     living       in
the    united          States.


Turning          to Radio            Marti,          which       operates                quasi-independently                               from
VOA, our           review           indicated          that        the         continued              use of the                    Schedule       B
noncompetitive,                     excepted          service               hiring           authority           to fill              117
positions,            particularly                   the     lower           graded           ones,       was questionable.
This*authority                  was originally                   granted               by OPM after                it         determined
that      it     would        be impracticable                     to examine                  applicants                for         the
particular            knowledge               of Cuba that                   is      required            for     certain              positions

at Radio        Marti.            Our review         of personnel                files        of 35 employees                      $:n        -          ;
the       excepted       service      showed that               5 of them did                 not     possess           the         ,f            q ‘i
required        knowledge           of Cuba called               for     by the           Schedule            B authority.

Personnel           regulations        do not         provide           the      same protection                  to                j ;
Schedule        B employees           as is provided                   to competitive                 civil       service
personnel.            From an employee's                 viewpoint,               continued               use of the ,::)J,
excepted        service       reduces      job        security           and limits                 the    employeel;:si::,;
ability        to express           concerns         to management.                                                            _;'{':

Radio       Marti     has completed            it     initial           review           of   all     Schedule           B
positions           to determine         whether         successful               performance                 in the         job
requires        preexisting           knowledge          of Cuba.             We were               advised       that L.,:Ja,!,
action       has been taken            to move to the                   competitive                 service       those,;::..,,
positions           which    can no longer             be justified                 a excepted                service                 I
position.            This    is     to be an annual               process.                                                    I..

                                                                                                                         3 T.,.,!
This      concludes         my prepared             remarks.            I will           be happy          to respond                to
any questions.                                                                                                                      ,,I '*,