Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., reached out to the Office of Personnel Management Aug. 12 to demand explanation for why the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey was delayed at the last minute for a second time this year.

Connolly, who chairs the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to acting OPM Director Michael Rigas noting that the law requires agencies to conduct an annual survey of employee satisfaction and mandates that OPM specify standardized survey questions, usually fulfilled by the administration of the FEVS.

“The subcommittee is concerned about the apparent mishandling of the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey by the Office of Personnel Management. For a second time this year, OPM has abruptly postponed the administration of the FEVS, providing conflicting and contradictory reasoning for the need to do so,” Connolly wrote.

The 2020 FEVS was initially set to go out in May of this year, but OPM ultimately decided to postpone its release until July, due to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress supported this first delay, as the subcommittee noted that given the “essential and urgent role of federal workers in responding to this pandemic,” as well as the need to adjust the survey to account for the pandemic’s impact on employees, an initial delay was warranted. OPM told subcommittee staff in May that it was taking necessary steps to ensure that there was not a second delay, according to the letter.

OPM also promised big changes for the upcoming survey to streamline questions and include a section focused exclusively on the COVID-19 pandemic.

But just days before the delayed survey was set to go out, OPM again announced July 9 that the survey would be delayed to Sept. 14, this time without a detailed explanation.

The survey is conducted over a six-week period, meaning that the agency would still be receiving responses during the same month that it was originally set to release the results.

“It is concerning that OPM would, without reasonable warning or justification, delay the FEVS a second time. Views of federal employees should never be ignored, especially during a time of crisis, a sentiment OPM officials agreed with at their May 6 briefing with subcommittee staff,” Connolly wrote.

His subcommittee is therefore demanding that OPM provide any and all documentation related to the decision to postpone the survey for a second time be handed over by Aug. 26, under the subcommittee’s “broad authority to investigate ‘any matter’ at ‘any time’ under House Rule X.”

Congress has struggled to obtain documentation from OPM before, most notably concerning the decision to break apart the agency and move most of its operations under the authority of the General Services Administration. That disagreement ultimately led to Congress passing provisions in fiscal year 2020 appropriations legislation that halted any further action on the merger until an outside analysis had been conducted.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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