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Introduction Of The “Government Accountability Act Of 2008”

Rep. Danny K. Davis

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Madam Speaker, the ``Government Accountability Office Act of 2008'' (the Act), is intended to improve the oversight, administration, and pay adjustment functions at the Government Accountability Office, GAO.

The former Comptroller General has asserted that Federal agencies should have ``modern, effective, credible, and, as appropriate, validated performance management systems in place with adequate safeguards, including reasonable transparency and appropriate accountability mechanisms, to ensure fairness and prevent politicization and abuse.'' Some of the safeguards recommended by the Government Accountability Office, GAO, include a performance management system that makes meaningful distinctions in individual employee performance; involves employees and stakeholders in designing the system; and achieves consistency, equity and nondiscrimination.

Over the last 24 months, the subcommittee has conducted oversight, and more recently investigated, the implementation of GAO's new personnel system to determine if it meets the aforementioned criteria. The subcommittee found that it did not. In addition, based on its investigation the subcommittee concluded that, contrary to legislative intent, GAO employees who met and exceeded expectations in 2006 and 2007 did not receive the annual across-the-board increase that other GAO employees received.

The Act would restore the 2006 and 2007 annual across-the-board increase to GAO employees who met expectations but did not receive the adjustment. It would also set a ``floor guarantee'' that would preserve GAO's performance-based compensation system, while ensuring that GAO employees receive an annual increase in their permanent pay, provided they ``meet expectations,'' that is at least equal to the Congressionally approved across-the-board increase.

The floor guarantee will be comprised of the annual adjustment to the GAO pay schedule plus the permanent merit pay increase received by an employee under GAO's merit pay system. At a hearing the subcommittee held on March 23, 2008, on this legislation and GAO's personnel reforms, the subcommittee learned from the Ivy Planning Group, a consulting firm hired by GAO to conduct an African American Performance Assessment Study at GAO, that there are significant differences between the ratings for African American analysts and Caucasian analysts. Therefore, the personnel reforms at GAO had a significant negative impact on African American staffers. Furthermore, a survey that was administered to GAO employees at my request, found that 81 percent of respondents thought morale in general at GAO is worse or much worse than before the reforms and a majority of the respondents felt that not having an across-the-board increase for all staff is very or somewhat unreasonable. While the subcommittee recognizes that more work needs to be done at GAO, the Act will help improve the morale at GAO and remedy the inequities that resulted from the denial of the 2006 and 2007 across-the-board adjustments.

Other provisions in the Act include creating a statutory Inspector General for GAO; permitting the Comptroller General, CG, greater flexibility to administer oaths to witnesses when auditing and settling accounts; enabling the CG to accept gifts and to make expenditures for meals and other expenses in connection with recruitment; and eliminates the statutorily imposed GS-15 pay cap to allow the CG the authority to pay employees up to the rate for Executive Level III. The Act has the support of GAO and its union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.