GAO reiterated that by implementing its recommendations, OPM could improve efforts by federal agencies to address human capital management issues.

GAO reiterated that by implementing its recommendations, OPM could improve efforts by federal agencies to address human capital management issues. Douglas Rising / Getty Images

Government watchdog reminds OPM about open HR recommendations

Some of the GAO’s priority recommendations include overhauling the General Schedule classification and pay system and simplifying agency hiring authorities.

The Government Accountability Office on Tuesday publicized unfulfilled recommendations it has made to the Office of Personnel Management regarding strategic human capital management, which has been on the watchdog’s high-risk list since 2001. 

“Fully implementing these open recommendations could significantly improve both OPM’s operations and its efforts to assist federal agencies in addressing various human capital management issues,” Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro wrote to acting OPM Director Robert Shriver in an accompanying letter

GAO urged OPM to implement a recommendation that it first made in 2014 to overhaul the General Schedule classification and pay system for federal employees. OPM said in March that it is preparing to transition the GS into a skills-based system and will develop a white paper and plan with resource needs and a timeline, according to the GAO. 

In order to fully implement the recommendation, GAO said that OPM needs to finish such a plan while continuing to work with stakeholders like the Chief Human Capital Officer Council, Office of Management and Budget and unions. 

Similarly, GAO highlighted a 2016 recommendation that it made to modify federal agency hiring authorities. It noted that OPM in March expanded government-wide direct hire authority for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and cyber positions as well as established such an authority for artificial intelligence positions. 

However GAO said that OPM should analyze if and how specific authorities contribute to the effectiveness of the hiring process and use the information to simplify and improve it. 

It also brought up a 2019 recommendation for OPM to improve federal retirement application processing times by creating a retirement services IT modernization plan. OPM reported, as of April, that its retirement backlog has fallen 23% since January but that the agency is still short of its goal. 

GAO also re-upped recommendations that OPM enhance guidance for managers and supervisors to address employee misconduct and develop a mechanism for agencies to share promising performance management practices and lessons. 

The watchdog pointed out that, as of November 2023, 75% of its recommendations made four years ago across the federal government have been implemented. But the implementation rate for OPM was approximately 33%. 

The report comes on the heels of an update from the agency’s inspector general that highlighted open recommendations for the employee health insurance program, which could help curb inaccurate penalties and other errors.