The data agencies provide to the Office of Personnel Management on employee misconduct isn’t adequate for the development to targeted training and prevention techniques, according to a Government Accountability Report released to the public Aug. 15.
“Because of weaknesses in OPM’s data on employee misconduct, which is provided by the agencies, OPM is unable to accurately target supervisory training to address misconduct, and decision-makers do not know the full extent or nature of this misconduct,” the report said.
“Agencies are accountable for providing required training to their managers. However, agency officials and subject-matter experts we interviewed said federal managers may not address misconduct because they are unfamiliar with the disciplinary process, have inadequate training, or receive insufficient support from their human resources offices.”
According to the report, there is no one definition of employee misconduct within the federal government, though decisional law by the Merit Systems Protection Board defines certain kinds of misconduct, such as “insubordination” or “misuse of government property.”
OPM officials told GAO investigators that the lack of a general definition gives agencies the flexibility they need to adequately address the misconduct.
According to the report, lesser disciplinary actions, such as a letter of reprimand, are not recorded in the Enterprise Human Resources Integration database, which means that OPM misses an opportunity to provide training and guidance to address those infractions.
“Indeed, better data could help OPM and agencies identify systemic misconduct issues, such as misuse of government property or physical aggression toward a co-worker, as well as emerging problems that benefit from early detection and/or more comprehensive approaches,” the report said.
The database also did not differentiate between adverse actions taken due to employee misconduct, poor performance or a mixture of the two.
“According to OPM officials, by establishing rules in terms of improving the efficiency of the service and the types of actions that will require specific procedures, Congress provided managers with maximum flexibility to pursue adverse actions whenever it would promote the efficiency of the service, whether the underlying impetus was a conduct issue or a failure to perform,” the report said.
The database also does not store or collect information on the type of misconduct for which the employee was receiving an adverse action. GAO investigators also found inconsistencies in the database overall.
GAO recommended that OPM should seek to improve the quality of their data by providing guidance to agencies on how to record it, disseminate promising practices and lessons learned in employee misconduct, and provide guidance to agencies on how to enhance supervisory training.
OPM disagreed with the first recommendation, stating that its Guide to Processing Personnel Actions is a thorough resource for employee misconduct, but GAO maintained that their recommendation would increase data confidence.
OPM partially agreed with the other two recommendations, noting that they are already taking actions to disseminate lessons learned and that it is not the responsibility of their agency to provide training to the federal workforce.