Lawmakers grill GAO chief over pay decisions

Analyst says compensation study had "significant" flaws.

At a joint hearing Tuesday, members of House and Senate subcommittees overseeing the federal workforce questioned a compensation study Government Accountability Office chief David M. Walker used to make pay determinations.

Walker has argued that the study by Watson Wyatt indicated some GAO analysts were overpaid, providing the grounds for the agency to split one of its pay bands and deny across-the-board raises to 308 employees last year. Dissatisfaction over the changes is one of the driving factors behind a unionization effort at the agency.

Charles Fay, professor of human resource management at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, said the problems in the compensation study were "significant," and ranged from the fact that only executives were involved in producing it to the "ambiguous and confusing" documentation of the study process and the resulting pay structure.

"Compensation is an art, not a science," Fay said. "That does not mean that it is, or should be, free of any standards. GAO is noted for the quality of its analyses. It is unfortunate that the same care was not taken with the analysis of its own pay system."

Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, claimed information submitted to the subcommittee Monday night shows the idea of splitting the pay band -- known as Band II -- "predated the Watson Wyatt study by approximately four years." According to Davis, the concept arose following a job questionnaire administered to GAO employees by the Personnel Decisions Research Institute in 2000.

Walker said the PDRI study determined that Band II should be split because analysts under the band had vastly different roles. In 2002, the agency's Employee Advisory Council and executive committee met to discuss the feasibility of splitting the Band II level, he said. "I knew we had apples, oranges and pears in Band II," he said. "But at the time in July 2003, I didn't know we had analysts who were paid above market."

Jane Weizmann, a senior consultant for Watson Wyatt, testified that the data used in the study, which analyzed GAO employees' pay relative to that of workers with comparable skills and experience at other agencies and outside government, was "robust and credible."

Walker said employee discontent is largely the result of the transition process into the new personnel system, arguing that before he leaves office in 2013, he hopes that all employees will receive the across-the-board increases.

"GAO is not perfect, and it never will be," Walker said.

He also said GAO's budget has not kept pace with inflation since 2003. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., questioned whether the agency has budget problems, noting that managing directors and executive committee members at GAO earned up to $20,000 in bonuses last year.

Walker said these employees are not subject to a market-based pay system because Congress only allows senior executives to make a certain amount of money, irrespective of the market. He added that half of senior executives received bonuses ranging from just below $10,000 to more than $20,000.

Curtis Copeland, a specialist at the Congressional Research Service, testified that Walker had promised Congress on numerous occasions in 2003 that, should lawmakers pass legislation allowing personnel changes at GAO, all employees who "met expectations" would receive across-the-board pay increases.

Walker contended that employees were given adequate notice of the payband restructuring and the fact that some would be denied the pay increases. He said that not a single employee complained that he had breached his promise to Congress until after the restructuring, though several employees at the hearing said they had complained beforehand, both to upper level managers and to one another.

Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, recommended that lawmakers repeal or substantially revise the authority given to the Comptroller General under the human capital reform act that allowed the personnel changes. He also asked that Congress decline to provide Walker any additional discretion over personnel policy, such as the ability to set reduction-in-force rules independent of those administered by the Office of Personnel Management. Junemann also recommended that Congress consider requiring an independent review of the criteria and processes GAO management used to implement the Band II split. Meanwhile, Norton questioned the appeals process at the watchdog agency, highlighting the fact that its appeals bodies are appointed by the Comptroller General -- the same person against whom such personnel complaints are filed. Norton recommended that members of Congress appoint officials to the appeals bodies.

Davis also asked witnesses whether it would be a "legislative stretch" for Congress to ensure that all GAO employees were provided pay adjustments. "You could condition the use of funds to the agency and provide those pay adjustments to employees," said Jon Shimabukuro, an attorney with CRS. "I don't think that would be inappropriate."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.