Agencies are doing a better job at posting employment vacancies, but many still are confused about the requirements of advertising federal positions, according to a new report
from the Office of Personnel Management. Between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 1999, federal agencies overall increased their compliance with job posting regulations by 9 percent, from 67 percent in 1997 to 76 percent in 1999. According to OPM, the improvement is significant because agencies were unaware of a government-wide requirement that they post vacancies until the second half of fiscal 1999, when OPM published a report highlighting the failure of agencies to properly advertise job vacancies during fiscal 1997. The report found that agencies did not post almost one-third of personnel actions requiring public notice in fiscal 1997. Federal regulations require agencies to post job vacancies for competitive service positions to ensure fairness in the federal employment process. Agencies post job vacancies and other personnel actions on OPM's USAJOBS
Web site. OPM studied the compliance rate at Defense and non-Defense agencies for posting various job types and personnel actions including career appointments, temporary appointments, conversions, transfers and reinstatements. The agency estimated that 123,988 competitive service personnel actions required posting on USAJOBS in fiscal 1999. Compliance by Defense agencies increased 18 percent over two years, jumping from 51 percent in fiscal 1997 to 69 percent in fiscal 1999. Non-Defense agencies improved their compliance rate by 5 percent, climbing to 79 percent in fiscal 1999 from 74 percent in fiscal 1997. Reasons for noncompliance ranged from ignorance to lack of documentation. Agencies cited confusion over federal requirements in announcing certain job vacancies on USAJOBS as the major reason for non-compliance in both fiscal 1997 and fiscal 1999. "This lack of understanding is most evident when agencies fill time-limited positions and hire former federal employees," said the study, "A Work in Progress: Openness in the Employment Process II." Nearly 60 percent of vacancies that were not posted were left off because agencies misunderstood the public notice rules. In 37 percent of the positions not posted, agencies said they had advertised vacancies on USAJOBS, but could not provide documentation to OPM for the report. Overall, agencies failed to advertise 24 percent of personnel actions requiring public notice on USAJOBS. The noncompliance rate among agencies in posting temporary appointments, which posed a problem for agencies in fiscal 1997, remained high in fiscal 1999. Agencies failed to meet public notice requirements for 35 percent of temporary or term appointments. OPM said it has included more guidance on public notice requirements in the agency's "Delegated Examining Operations Handbook" and will continue to emphasize the importance of advertising job vacancies to federal human resources workers. OPM also encouraged agencies to address public notice regulations when looking at overall accountability, since "fair and open competition is a key element in sustaining a merit system."