The inspector general’s office at OPM has told Congress that the agency is not being cooperative in its investigation into use of the “direct hire” authority, which federal agencies have increasingly used in recent years to fill positions where they have high needs and/or difficulty hiring through standard processes.
Under that authority—in some cases granted by law, in some cases granted to agencies at OPM’s discretion—agencies may hire qualified candidates without complying with usual practices such as ranking them into categories or numerically; also, veterans preference does not apply.
However, concerns about potential abuses of merit principles—including potential hiring for partisan reasons—resulted in a request earlier this year from the House government operations subcommittee that the IG at OPM assess the practice.
However, that office recently reported to Congress that OPM management has failed to provide “timely access to agency records” as required by law, citing a back-and-forth involving more than two dozen interactions between the IG and agency management in which the latter asked for clarification and other delays—to which the IG agreed—ending with a promise to provide the requested information by a deadline that was not met.
“The timely access requirement and principles of cooperation have been expressly conveyed to all OPM employees as recently as September 2018. However, over the past two months the agency has engaged in a pattern of delay and non-responsiveness that culminated with the failure to produce agency records requested by the agreed upon date,” the IG said.