Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officials failed to adequately consider all their options when planning an agency reorganization currently under way, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
In the report (GAO-06-10), GAO found that the EEOC addressed the three main recommendations in a February 2003 study by the National Academy of Public Administration, but lacked an "organized strategy" for considering 64 other enhancements suggested by the congressionally chartered nonprofit organization.
Agency officials disputed GAO's findings, arguing that they reviewed all of NAPA's advice.
"EEOC was under no obligation to follow any of NAPA's recommendations; yet, in fact, we have implemented most of them," said Charles Robbins, an agency spokesman, in an e-mail message.
In 2002, the EEOC asked NAPA for advice on how it could realign itself to better meet its civil rights enforcement mission and improve efficiency. The resulting report is guiding ongoing efforts to reorganize the agency.
In the nearly three years since the report's publication, the EEOC has set up a nationwide call center and announced a field office restructuring designed to reduce management layers and focus more attention on front-line work. The agency has said it will next look to make changes at its headquarters.
These steps indicate that the EEOC listened to NAPA's primary recommendations, GAO said. But the auditors concluded that the agency did not thoroughly consider 64 other points in the report.
The additional suggestions included improving methods for evaluating employee performance, beefing up technology, supporting telework and enhancing training programs.
"In the last year, EEOC took major restructuring actions that could fundamentally change the way the agency serves the public," the GAO report stated. "Given its role as the preeminent anti-discrimination enforcement agency, making such important changes in how the agency is structured and operates calls for carefully considering all available options."
EEOC officials defended their efforts, providing a chart illustrating the agency's response to all 64 NAPA recommendations. GAO said, however, that the list was supplied only after the report had been completed. "EEOC officials told us on several occasions that such documentation did not exist," the report stated.
Robbins said the agency appreciates GAO's report, but noted that the auditors' assessment offers "no criticism of EEOC's current field restructuring proposal. Indeed, GAO's report focuses on the process, not the product."
Union officials, who have long been critical of the agency's handling of the reorganization, said the GAO report supported many of their complaints. The report confirmed that the restructuring effort has been "kind of all over the place," said Gabrielle Martin, president of American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216.
The report also showed that the EEOC "really isn't going to save any money any time soon," through the restructuring, Martin said. The field office streamlining component is projected to save $8.26 million through fiscal 2013, GAO said. But the agency won't begin to reap these benefits until fiscal 2010, "because of the immediate costs of opening two new local offices and the time needed for employees to leave their eliminated positions," the report stated.
In a statement Friday, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, said if the EEOC fails to take a more "considerate approach" to its reorganization, it risks missing "an opportunity to fully benefit from NAPA's work, become more efficient and effective, and further improve its ability to enforce the nation's civil rights laws."