One of President Barack Obama’s political appointees at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) “burrowed” into a permanent career civil service job that a qualified disabled veteran probably should have received, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
That’s one of the 17 instances over the last five years in which Obama political appointees got permanent career civil service jobs at FDIC without prior approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which manages the federal civil service.
GAO found 69 appointees across 30 agencies “burrowed” into full-time roles between 2010 and 2015. Under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, which created OPM, the agency’s first job is to protect the civil service against partisan political interference.
When political appointees are allowed to “burrow” into the executive branch bureaucracy, they become stealth obstacles to a succeeding president’s efforts to implement his policy agenda across the federal government.
“Rules exist for a reason,” House Committee on Energy and Commerce chairman and Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton said in a news release. “The nonpartisan watchdog’s findings that one out of every four political appointees who burrowed into the executive branch during this administration did not follow the rules is deeply troubling. GAO’s guidance should help ensure proper procedures are followed so favoritism and bias are free from the inner workings of our government.”
OPM denied four of those 17 job conversions, but ultimately let the FDIC appointee assume a permanent position. GAO didn’t say what happened to the disabled veteran.
Agency officials told GAO they didn’t always seek prior approval from OPM because they didn’t understand how or why OPM policy required them to do so.
But there may be more Obama political appointees burrowed into permanent roles than has been disclosed to date. Fourteen of the 30 agencies GAO reviewed reported different numbers to GAO than OPM reported to GAO. (RELATED: Obama Political Appointee ‘Burrowed’ Into Permanent Job At VA)
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had the highest number of political appointee conversions (nine), followed by by the Department of Justice (DOJ) at seven, and Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Treasury at five each. GAO didn’t break down which agencies failed to request approval from OPM.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) has cracked down on the practice of burrowing leading up to November’s election, as it can give an impression of favoritism and create a bureaucratic nightmare for a new presidential administration trying to accomplish different policy goals. HOGR Chairman and Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz demanded agencies report the number of all burrowing employees in July.
GAO said OPM’s acting director should create a process so agencies can verify and correct political appointee conversion data for use in congressional reports and requests, and highlight any conversions that don’t receive OPM’s prior approval.
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