The SEC has made only limited progress toward improving issues with personnel management cited in a 2013 report, GAO has said, finding particular ongoing challenges in collaboration across divisions and in hiring and promotion.

“While SEC has recognized some staff for collaborating, it has yet to set expectations for all staff to collaborate across divisions as needed or implement relevant best practices to break down existing silos,” the new report said. “As a result, SEC staff still report that divisions operate in isolation. Other than the SEC chair’s office, which has competing demands on its time, no official has authority to affect the daily operations of the entire agency. Other organizations rely on their chief operating officer to make such changes, but because SEC’s COO lacks such authority, the agency will likely continue to face challenges.”

In addition, GAO found that because SEC has not identified skills gaps among its hiring specialists, “its training of these staff is limited. As a result, SEC lacks assurance that its hiring specialists have the necessary skills to hire and promote the most qualified applicants, in accordance with key principles of an effective control system.”

It did find progress in other areas, however, including that the SEC now: monitors how supervisors recognize and reward staff and address poor performance; monitors its human capital programs and inform its human capital goals consistent with OPM guidance; and has developed a workforce and succession plan, although the plan does not include some elements of OPM guidance.

The SEC agreed with GAO’s recommendations on workforce planning, performance management and intra-agency collaboration but disagreed that enhancing the role of the COO would be the best way to improve cross-divisional communication and collaboration.