Among the findings of the National Academy of Public Administration’s new report on OPM is that “with some exceptions, the agency is viewed as compliance-oriented rather than customer-focused and its credibility and reputation as badly in need of repair.”
“In interviews with federal agency stakeholders, the study team repeatedly heard the refrain, “Mother, may I?” as an example of OPM’s current day-to-day, compliance-oriented approach. Multiple stakeholders view transactional reviews and approvals as a distraction from OPM’s role to lead federal strategic human capital management. They would prefer more flexibility, with OPM performing compliance reviews on a cyclical basis rather than case by case,” it said.
“Transactional activities tend to emphasize title 5 status quo and compliance with detailed rules and standards, while strategic human capital management requires a forward-looking perspective that focuses on overall merit system accountability and the future of the federal workforce. These two roles can create conflict and tension with each other,” it said.
It said that while it is not clear how much of OPM’s time and other resources are devoted to enforcing compliance but “many interviewees cited OPM’s transactional reviews and approvals as a major pain point facing agencies.”
“The goal of effective oversight should be to hold agencies accountable in a positive, principled way and help improve agencies’ performance without looking over their shoulders. OPM should accelerate the shift from compliance evaluation to performance evaluation to provide forward-looking recommendations to address agencies’ human capital management challenges,” it said.